78-Year Old Celebrates Renewed Health and Hope After Minimally Invasive Heart Procedure

At 78-years old, Passaic County resident, Rosemary Brand, had no plans of slowing down. Between fitness classes at the local gym and backyard barbeques, Rosemary enjoys a busier schedule than many women half her age, but she’s happiest when she’s on the go – which made it all the more devastating when she developed a disabling heart condition that claimed her vitality and independence.

About 12 years ago, Brand’s cardiologist, Ravi Rathi, MD, FACC, of Jersey City Medical Center and a member of Barnabas Health Medical Group (BHMG), both part of RWJBarnabas Health, detected a heart murmur and diagnosed her with aortic stenosis, a narrowing of the heart’s aortic valve that results from the accumulation of calcium. Over time, the degenerative disease crippled her heart’s ability to pump oxygen-rich blood to the brain and other organs while weakening the heart itself. Patients with similar cases may suffer from chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness, and other symptoms that impair their health, mobility and quality of life.

“Over the last year, I could barely breathe or walk,” said Brand. “I missed picnics, dinners, shopping trips…everything. All my family is in Ireland, so it was the company of my friends that I missed most.”

Brand’s condition steadily deteriorated, leading to the onset of heart failure and a poor prognosis. Because of her age and co-existing health issues she was not a candidate for open-heart surgery, but thanks to advances in treatment – and access to New Jersey’s most extensive heart care network – she had another option: transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR).

Last year, Brand was referred to interventional cardiologist Vladimir Znamensky, MD, also a member of BHMG, and Jersey City Medical Center’s TAVR Screening Program, a unique service through which the hospital’s cardiac specialists work in partnership with the heart team at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center (NBIMC) to evaluate potential TAVR candidates.

“This minimally invasive approach enables us to mount a new, collapsible valve – made of tissue or synthetic materials – on the tip of a catheter and then thread it to the heart through the femoral artery in the leg,” said Dr. Znamensky. “Once in place, the new valve is expanded and begins working immediately.  No chest incision is required, so there is less pain, less risk for complications, and quicker recovery for the patient.”

Soon after her assessment at Jersey City Medical Center, Brand received a new aortic valve at NBIMC.  Both facilities are part of RWJBarnabas Health, which completes more TAVR procedures than any other health care system in the state.

“It was smooth sailing,” said Brand.  “I woke up from surgery and I felt fantastic.”  The TAVR procedure, performed by Dr. Znamensky and cardiothoracic surgeon Mark Russo, MD, markedly improved Brand’s heart function and symptoms.

“All those years I was gasping for air,” she said.  “Now there’s nothing holding me back.” Brand is once again bustling around town, enjoying the camaraderie of her friends, and planning for the future.  In fact, she’s even considering a trip to Ireland.

For more information or to make an appointment with one of New Jersey’s top cardiologists or cardiac surgeons, visit rwjbh.org/heart or call 1-888-724-7123.

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