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Flora Fitzsimmons

Before being treated by cardiologist Zubair Ahmed at Walker Heart Institute Cardiovascular Clinic, Flora Fitzsimmons says she had a "horrible couple of years." Fitzsimmons, who already had a pacemaker helping to regulate her heartrate and rhythm, did not understand why she could barely walk 50 feet and was struggling with chest pains that kept her awake.

"One night, I had one of my terrible pains, which I was having a lot at night," she says." I wound up in a helicopter going to Washington Regional."

At Washington Regional's Emergency Department, a specially trained medical team immediately examined Fitzsimmons and performed diagnostic tests to determine the cause of her exhaustion and pain. "They ran a lot of tests," she says. "After Dr. Ahmed looked at all the tests, that's when he said that I had a heart valve that wasn't working. That meant my heart was not getting the blood supply that it needed."

Ahmed is one of nine board-certified cardiologists at Washington Regional's Walker Heart Institute, which also offers four cardiovascular and thoracic surgeons and more than 325 heart health professionals. Its 76-bed cardiology unit features an intensivist program staffed by full-time pulmonology specialists.

Fitzsimmons recalls the relief she felt when she learned there was a treatment for her heart valve problem. "Dr. Ahmed looked at me and said, 'You have a valve that isn't working and it's causing you a lot of pain - but I can fix that.' I'll never forget those words," she says.

The treatment for her heart valve problem was a procedure called transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR. Washington Regional is the area leader in this minimally invasive technique, which uses a catheter inserted through a blood vessel in the leg to replace the aortic valve without opening the patient’s chest. "On the day that I had the procedure at Washington Regional, I met a lot of the staff. They are all caring. I felt in good hands," Fitzsimmons says.

"I would suggest Walker Heart Institute to anybody. Dr. Ahmed is wonderful. He saved my life. I just put myself in his hands - and here I am!"