Gilbert is the recipient of the 400th Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) at Parkwest Medical Center, and he’s now on the move, again. TAVR is a minimally invasive surgical procedure, delivering a fully collapsible replacement valve through a stent, instead going in through traditional open heart surgery.     

The replacement valve pushes the old valve leaflets out of the way, so the tissue in the replacement valve can take over the job of regulating blood flow. When TAVR was recommended for Gilbert last year, he had been feeling unhealthy and discouraged for quite a while.     

“If we went out to the mall, I would have to sit in a chair while everyone else went through the stores, because I would be completely worn out,” Gilbert says. “I couldn’t walk. It’s not a good feeling.”    Gilbert couldn’t walk up the Gatlinburg strip from Ripley’s Aquarium to the Ski Lift without stopping at least a couple of times to rest. Soon he was no longer physically capable of prepping the RV to go out on the road.    The sharpest decline came after Gilbert received a pacemaker. He chalked it up to his age, until his wife convinced him to press for answers.    

  It didn’t take long for cardiologist Roger Riedel, MD, to figure out something was very wrong with his new patient. Dr. Riedel ordered extensive tests, revealing that an aortic valve wasn’t functioning properly.     

Dr. Nicholaos Xenopoulos, MD, agreed that Gilbert was a candidate for TAVR. He explained the procedure, and that one of the benefits would likely be a faster and easier recovery.          Gilbert knew from personal experience how long it could take to recover from a heart procedure. In addition to his own experience, he had seen plenty of other heart patients in lengthy cardiac rehabilitation. What if it took weeks or months to recover?     

Gilbert’s wife wasn’t well, and she wouldn’t be able to watch over him at the hospital, or cater to him at home. Neither would his children, who were scattered across the country with homes and families of their own to take care of.     

Dr. Xenopoulos and Dr. Michael Maggart performed the transaortic valve replacement at Parkwest Medical Center on Sept. 19, 2016. From the moment Gilbert woke up, he knew this was no ordinary heart procedure.     

“I couldn’t believe it,” Gilbert says. “It was like my whole body transitioned – I could breathe!”      For the next two days Gilbert was anxious to get out of bed, and get moving. One might say the old Rick Gilbert was back, except that he wasn’t feeling quite as old as before.       

With his renewed energy it didn’t take Gilbert very long to start making plans to pull up stakes and do a little traveling with his wife this Spring. You can count on them coming back, though.