Home in a day after heart valve replacement

No longer short of breath, 78-year-old Jacksonville man looks forward to returning to his first love: playing the drums.

physician checking elderly man's chest with stethoscope

Vernon Camp misses playing the drums.

He’s been playing professionally since the early ‘60s, with the U.S. Army Band in Germany, then as part of a big band at an Atlanta Hotel and in many quartets and jazz groups. And that wasn’t even his day job — 39 years as a clinical and research technologist from Emory University School of Medicine Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences.

But heart valve problems have slowed him down in recent years, and at 78, he wondered whether he’d have to hang up his drumsticks for good.

After experiencing shortness of breath in 2014, Camp was diagnosed with aortic stenosis, a condition that occurs when the aortic valve narrows and doesn’t open properly, restricting blood flow and forcing the heart to work harder to pump blood throughout the body. He’s also had an irregular heartbeat, known as atrial fibrillation, for 10 years.

Camp, of North Mandarin, had two options: open heart surgery to replace the damaged valve, or a minimally invasive procedure known as Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement, or TAVR. Given his age and other chronic conditions, the heart valve team decided Camp would be better served with TAVR.

The procedure is designed for people with severe aortic stenosis who are high and intermediate risk candidates for open heart surgery. Performed through the femoral artery in the groin, TAVR allows physicians to replace the aortic valve without opening the chest and without using a heart-lung machine.

Drawing on his years as a clinical technologist, Camp researched where he wanted to have the surgery and turned to Baptist Heart Specialists. He saw cardiologist Edward Bisher, MD.

Dr. Bisher referred him to Ruby Satpathy, MD, an interventional cardiologist and medical director of Baptist’s Structural Heart Program. Dr. Satpathy and her multidisciplinary team of interventional cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons specialize in minimally invasive techniques.

Camp said he was comforted by having his TAVR procedure performed by Dr. Satpathy, “one of the pioneers in the field.” He was one of the several patients in November at Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville to have TAVR performed without general anesthesia. Dr. Satpathy uses conscious sedation similar to what is used for colonoscopies, endoscopies and heart catheterization procedures.

Conscious sedation allows patients to recover more quickly as opposed to general anesthesia where patients are intubated and on a breathing machine.

"Patients are very comfortable. It’s just like going to sleep and waking up," Dr. Satpathy said. "Patients don’t have the side effects of anesthesia and are not sleepy afterwards and they are walking four to five hours after surgery."

Dr. Satpathy and her team also use what she calls a “magic stitch,” an instrument that makes no incision or requires no stitches in the groin. The Perclose/ ProGlide® instrument delivers a suture to close the hole in the femoral artery without cutting into the groin.

Baptist Jacksonville is the only hospital in Jacksonville doing TAVR with conscious sedation and no groin incision. Most important, the procedure reduces a patient’s hospital stay to one or two days.

"By using conscious sedation and new procedure to close the arterial puncture sites, patients are able to recover, walk, and be discharged sooner and with fewer complications,"; said Robert Still, MD, cardiothoracic surgeon at Baptist Jacksonville. "This is a major step forward in the care for TAVR patients."

"The trend of moderate sedation for patients undergoing TAVR follows a shift towards shorter procedure times, reduced length of stay, and lower hospital cost," added Anesthesiologist Samuel J. Vélez, MD, CPE. "The shift in TAVR patient care has placed the structural heart program at Baptist Medical Center Heart Hospital as leader in the region and preferred by our community."

Camp is glad to be back on the mend. He takes his teenage granddaughters shopping for clothes and even can be found babysitting their hamster.

"I told Dr. Satpathy after surgery that she was my guardian angel," he said.

And he’s looking forward to getting back to his drums.

"Music is important to me and one of the main reasons in improving my health. I’d like to be strong enough to resurrect my music," Camp said. "That was God’s gift to me to play music. I’ve always been pretty good at it."

For more information on TAVR, go to baptistjax.com/valve.