Gareth Hopkin's Heart Valve Disease Story
Thursday 8th June 2017
Gareth Hopkins was diagnosed with severe aortic stenosis in February 2017. Two months later, Gareth believed he was going in for open heart surgery to receive a valve replacement only to find that when he awoke, they could not perform the surgery because his valve was too damaged. Cue Dave Smith, Interventional Cardiologist, Morriston Hospital, who informed Gareth that he was the perfect candidate for a TAVI.
Gareth, a retired plumbing engineer from a small village in the beautiful Upper Afan Valley in Port Talbot. After suffering from a chest infection in October 2016, Gareth was referred for numerous tests which eventually led to an echocardiogram which revealed he had severe aortic stenosis.
Before his diagnosis, Gareth had never heard of heart valve disease and was quite shocked that he now had it. After learning more about the symptoms and thinking back, Gareth realised that over the past few years he had been feeling breathless and struggled to walk for any distance but he always assumed that it was acid reflux and part of getting older.
Gareth was admitted to hospital for an angiogram in March 2017 where he began to suffer from severe chest pain and was transferred to Morriston Hospital. After being discharged he was placed on the urgency list for a heart valve replacement. During the next seven days, Gareth struggled to move, could barely walk more than two feet, he couldn’t climb the stairs and had to sleep sitting upright as laying down made him feel as though he was drowning. After mentioning these symptoms to his GP he was once again admitted to Morriston Hospital, where all of the cardiac consultants were very helpful and explained everything that was happening.
One thing that both Gareth and his wife found beneficial was to take some time to read about his condition. They picked up booklets about heart disease from the hospital that were very useful in helping them to understand what the tests were for and to translate some of the medical terms used by the doctors. They also equipped them the information they needed to be able to ask the doctors the right questions had about Gareth’s own valve disease.
On 7 April, Gareth was finally scheduled to receive open heart surgery to replace his valve. After being prepped and taken into surgery, Gareth expected to come out with a new valve however, what he instead learned was that they couldn’t complete the surgery due to the fact that he had a porcelain aorta. A porcelain aorta is an aorta that is heavily calcified and can often prevent valve replacement via open heart surgery, as was the case with Gareth.
Needless to say Gareth was disappointed with this news and found himself feeling quite ill and vulnerable, not knowing what to expect next.
That’s when Gareth met Dr Dave Smith, interventional cardiologist at Morriston Hospital. “I reviewed Gareth’s case and determined that he was a perfect candidate for a TAVI treatment. This non-invasive procedure could be performed on Gareth’s calcified aorta and would only require a short stay in the hospital,” said Dr Smith. In fact Gareth could receive his TAVI on Thursday and be home by Saturday!
It’s been a few months since Gareth had his TAVI and he and his family have been amazed at how quickly he has recovered. Gareth says “I will always be forever grateful to Dr Smith for giving me back the quality of life I previously enjoyed. Thanks to my treatment, I’m now able to walk without pain or breathlessness and my health keeps improving daily.” In fact, it won’t be long until he is able to keep up with his grandchildren again! We wish you continued health and happiness!