DANVILLE - On Dec. 3, a combined interventional cardiology and cardiovascular surgical team at Geisinger Medical Center successfully implanted its 100th Medtronic CoreValve into Thomas Simrell, 81, of Scranton.
The minimally invasive surgery, known as Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR), replaces the aortic valve through a catheter instead of an open heart procedure, which was previously required.
Before the procedure, Simrell didn't have the energy to stay awake after 10 hours of sleep because of his aortic stenosis - a narrowing of the blood - and oxygen-supplying aortic valve.
Thomas Simrell, front row, third from left, is surrounded by the Geisinger Medical Center team that successfully implanted its 100th Medtronic CoreValve into him. Shown front row, from left, are Dr. Joyce Burnside, Dr. Kimberly Skelding, Simrell and Dr. Joseph Stemm. In back row are Susan Gearhart, Valeriec Bucher, Rachael Oravitz, Michael Doll, Brian Burgess, Heather Zimmerman, Kathy Phillips, Elizabeth Truxall, Amy Temple, Kelley Laughlin, Joyce Roberts, James Roberts, Thomas Bules, Rachel Oravich and Dale Gustitus. (Story on D-3)
On the morning after receiving his CoreValve implant, Simrell got up and walked four times around his floor at GMC's Hospital for Advanced Medicine (HfAM) - about a quarter mile.
He walked it six more times later that day before staying up late to watch television. By the next day, he walked out of the hospital a new man.
"I feel much, much better, but I can't realize the work the Geisinger team did on me because I don't feel any pain," said Simrell, who has been married to his wife, Helen, for 61 years and has nine children, 33 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. "They just did a wonderful job. And now instead of living two more years like my cardiologist said, it's hopefully going to be 10."
In April 2011, GMC began participating in the Medtronic CoreValve U.S. clinical trial, which was evaluating the new, non-surgical alternative to open-heart surgery for patients with severe aortic stenosis. Geisinger was one of three leading U.S. hospitals participating in the trial.
The FDA approved Medtronic's CoreValve TAVR system on Jan. 17. The approval came several months ahead of expectations and was based largely on the results from the clinical trial.
Dr. Kimberly Skelding, interventional cardiologist, has been leading the TAVR procedures at GMC.
She says the 100 milestone was reached because of a partnership between the cardiovascular surgical team, the anesthesia team, the advanced practitioner team, cardiology colleagues, the cardiac catheterization lab and echo staff, the research coordinators and the nursing staff.
She said the procedure cannot be done without those groups working like a well-oiled machine.
In November, Dr. Jeff Popma, the national principal investigator, presented initial data on the one-year outcomes for the patients who received CoreValve in the clinical trial that Geisinger participated in at The Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics (TCT) conference - the world's largest educational meeting specializing in interventional vascular medicine.
Skelding reported that the outcomes for Geisinger patients beat the national average on all fronts.
And she says the patients are pleased with their care in the process.
"Our patients who come back for their clinical visits cannot speak highly enough about their care in Geisinger Health System," Skelding said. "Their stories about their nursing care, the coordinators going above and beyond for them and their families and how their lives have been changed due to this new technology have been heartwarming, inspiring and simply unbelievable!"
Simrell is now one of them. And the honorary grand marshall of the 2010 Scranton St. Patrick's Day Parade looks forward to his prolonged life because of it.