“My wife is famous.” That’s what Mary Ann Cahalin’s husband would share with friends and even some strangers after she underwent her transcatheter aortic valve replacement procedure. In January 2008, Cahalin was the first person in the region to undergo a minimally invasive approach to replace her defective aortic valve without having to undergo open-heart surgery.
Cahalin was part of a clinical trial at the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Heart & Vascular Center that gave new hope to patients who are not eligible for open-heart surgery. For years, Cahalin, a registered nurse and mother of five, had heart problems. “I was worn out. I could hardly walk around my own house. I couldn’t even make a bed without sitting down at least three times,” says Cahalin.
The procedure, which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2011, has given hundreds of patients a new lease on life. “This has been like a miracle to me. It was a complete turnaround to what I was able to do before,” she says.
Recovery from the procedure is also a fraction of what it is for open-heart surgery. Cahalin had the procedure on a Tuesday and was out of the hospital by Friday. “A month afterwards, I was camping again with the Girl Scouts, something I hadn’t been able to do for a very long time.”