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Patient story: TAVI Procedure

This story is written by the daughter of James, Clare Wheat, December 2022.

My father, James Bourassa (76 YO), had a heart attack last week. He went to the Sunshine Coast University Hospital in an ambulance and was treated in emergency as an acute care patient. Initially all seemed under control, but then after a few hours he started to deteriorate fairly quickly and what was thought to be angina or a mild heart attack became much more serious.  Thankfully, dad had been under the care of Cardiologist Dr Peter Larsen for a number of years, and so a swift transfer to the Sunshine Coast University Private Hospital next door, where Dr Larsen was based,  was arranged and he was admitted to ICU at SCUPH at around 8pm that night.

From the point of dad’s admission to SCUPH, the quality of care was exceptional –  he was very closely monitored by calm and extremely professional nurses and doctors, he was made as comfortable as possible, and the pace at which investigations and scans were done stepped up dramatically.

The evening of his admission to ICU at SCUPH, dad was sent down to the cardiac cath lab, so they could go in and have a look at what was happening with his heart. Stents were being discussed as an option for blockages. But when the news came back, it was not so simple. His aortic valve (which he’d had replaced many years ago) was seriously compromised – one of the valve’s cusps had blown out and was in a permanently ‘open’ position, causing pooling of blood in his surrounding tissues and explaining the declining oxygen levels. At that stage we were told dad’s valve needed to be replaced, and that the procedure would need to occur very soon. His oxygen levels were dropping, and his organs such as his kidneys and brain were starting to show signs of deterioration. That news was delivered around midnight, within 4 hours of his admission to SCUPH – and while the news wasn’t good – we had answers and we knew what was next. Because dad’s condition was deteriorating, we were worried about the trauma that his second open heart surgery would involve. Last time he was a lot younger, and fitter, and even then the recovery was long and slow. This time, we knew it would be a lot harder. So we were all terribly worried, and mum was facing the very real prospect that her husband of 54 years might not have a good outcome.

The next morning we all reconvened at the hospital anxiously waiting for updates. Dad was still in ICU, and had been taken down for more scans in the morning. We didn’t know why more scans were being done. Then suddenly there was good news. Dr Larsen and the team at SCUPH were exploring whether dad was a candidate for a ‘valve in valve TAVI’. A much less invasive procedure which luckily is available at SCUPH. His scans were sent to Singapore for review by specialists as to whether there was adequate space for a valve in valve insertion, and if the answer was positive, then the substantial surgical and medical team would be assembled, the valve transported from Medtronics in Brisbane,  and at 5 o’clock that day, the procedure would go ahead.  WELL!  The stars aligned, the specialists in Singapore gave the nod, the team was assembled, and even though this procedure is usually only performed on the 9th of the month –  for 5 or 6 patients who have attended a number of tests and appointments in the weeks and months leading up to their TAVIs –  dad’s procedure was coordinated in less than a day, and done just for him. This was an extraordinary coordination of Ramsay’s resources and at every stage, the best possible outcome for the patient was the central focus.  Dad’s procedure was a success, and he was discharged, new valve and all, after 2 nights in ICU and one in Ward 4, and is now gratefully recovering at home.

I can’t tell you how proud I am of Ramsay Health Care and the team at SCUPH. My family is so grateful and they are all firmly on ‘team Ramsay’ for life. Literally and figuratively.

We would like to particularly thank all the SCUPH nurses and doctors, but given there were SO MANY, we apologise that we didn’t catch them all….there was Kel (RN, ICU), Ben (PM shift RN, ICU), Terry Coleman (ICU Dr), Dan (ICU Dr) Juliette (ICU RN), Gerrin and Alexandra (RN TAVI Coordinators) as well as the many specialists involved, including, Dr Larsen (Cardiologist), Dr Tam (Cardiothoracic surgeon), Dr Ray Duffy (anaesthetist), Dr Hart (Cardiothoracic surgeon) and Silvia (Heart HQ Nurse Practitioner).