At first, Bob Spong felt a bit more tired than usual and chalked it up to his 85 years of age.

“But it slowly got worse and then I started feeling breathless, so I went to the doctor,” Bob said.

Tests showed that the valve gradient of Bob’s heart was narrow, due to calcification.

“It should be wide enough to let the blood pump out and it should measure 20-something. If it is over 40, that is bad news,” Bob explained.

“Mine was 49. The blood couldn’t get out of my heart because the valve was not working, which means pressure was building. It can lead to chest pains. I only had the breathlessness but, in the end, I was so tired I was not able to do the things I normally would.

“In the last three weeks (before coming into Epworth Richmond for surgery), it got really bad.”

Bob, the father of two daughters, is grateful to his wife, who “keeps me honest with looking after my health” and to A/Prof Tony Walton who performed a TAVI procedure to replace his faulty heart valve.

“It’s amazing what they can do. I was awake the whole time, listening to all the people in the operating theatre. There were so many people in there – about 12, including nurses, anaesthetist, surgeon, ultrasound people all working busily; it was like a beehive of activity.

“I could see on the screen the new valve going in, up through the artery. I found it very interesting. It looked too big to go inside my heart. But they all know what they are doing; they were all so relaxed. Dr Tony Walton has done so many procedures now, he could do it in his sleep, I imagine!

“I did have some worries that they would have trouble accessing my heart through my arteries. If that had been the case, I would have had open heart surgery. But, I didn’t need that and the procedure took just 1.5 hours.

“I had the procedure on the Monday and went home on the Thursday.”

The minimally invasive procedure meant that Bob recovered quickly.

“I stayed in bed after the procedure on Monday, Tuesday I felt washed out and on Wednesday I felt marvellous,” he said.

“I’m now not allowed to drive for a month or do anything strenuous, so wife has to do the housework now, which she doesn’t appreciate,” Bob laughed.

“I’ll be able to catch up on my reading.”

Read: "Major cardiac milestone reached" with 1,000 TAVI procedures carried out at Epworth Richmond.


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