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"I feel like a new person!" Advanced TAVR procedure at St. Luke's is life-changing for Manchester woman

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Mary Ellen heart care patient

Mary Ellen Ryan knows a thing or two about cardiovascular procedures. Over the years, the retired farmer with a history of heart disease has been on the receiving end of multiple interventions including cardiac stents, carotid artery surgery and an open heart bypass operation.

But at 88 years of age, with a narrowing heart valve in need of repair, Ryan learned invasive surgery was no longer an option. “She was not an easy candidate by any means,” explains Ryan’s daughter Pat Doyle. “Her age and her health made it too risky.”

Fortunately for Ryan, St. Luke’s Hospital offers a procedure called Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement, or TAVR. With TAVR, doctors no longer have to remove the old, damaged valve during a traditional open heart operation. Instead they insert a replacement valve through a catheter via an artery in the leg, similar to inserting a stent.


“It’s a much less invasive way of repairing the aortic valve,” says Dr. Richard Kettelkamp, St. Luke’s Hospital – Cardiology. “TAVR opens the door for treatment of patients whose
age or medical condition rules out surgery. It’s really one of the greatest advances in cardiovascular care in the past few years.”

TAVR has been available at St. Luke’s since 2016. It is used for patients with aortic stenosis—a narrowing in one of the heart’s main valves—who are at high or intermediate risk of complications from surgical valve replacement.

Ryan says her longtime cardiologist was the first to tell her about the benefits of TAVR. Ryan sees Dr. Ersin Atay at the St. Luke’s Hospital – Cardiology in Manchester. Her daughter says, “Initially the procedure was not available in Cedar Rapids, but Dr. Atay continued to monitor Mom closely. When it was finally time to replace her valve, we were happy the opportunity was available at St. Luke’s.”

Dr. Atay’s partner, Dr. Georges Hajj, along with Dr. Mark Barnett of Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa Department of Surgical Specialists, performed Ryan’s procedure. “Dr. Hajj was absolutely wonderful,” Ryan recalls. “He explained the procedure and took all the time my family and I needed to answer our questions. I had all the confidence in the world.”

Pat Doyle’s confidence was enhanced by the role Mayo Clinic played in her mother’s care.

Because UnityPoint Health – Cedar Rapids is a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network,
Ryan’s cardiac team could review their treatment plan with Mayo physicians to confirm they were taking the right approach. 

Says Doyle, “There’s no need to go far away for the right care. We received everything we needed through UnityPoint Health.” After the procedure, Ryan followed up with cardiac rehab in Manchester. “That’s another benefit of UnityPoint Health,” 

Doyle explains. “Whatever we could do locally, they were more than willing to work with us on, so Mom didn’t have to go back and forth to Cedar Rapids. Dr. Hajj comes to Manchester regularly so we could see him here, too.”

Today, Mary Ellen Ryan says, “Dr. Atay told me I’d feel like a new person and I do! I have a lot more energy. I am so grateful.” Adds her daughter, “We had the right team. Everyone, from the cardiologists and surgeons to the nurses, radiology and lab, made sure Mom received wonderful care. It was a very good experience.”