Jack Gillisse’s Quality of Life Before and After His TAVR Procedure
For four years, 80-year-old Jack Gillisse was under the care of Cardiologist Jeffrey Wolfson, MD, FACC. Wolfson had been monitoring Gillisse’s heart murmur and aortic valve stenosis. During this time, Gillisse was active and enjoying life after retiring. Together they knew that at some point Gillisse would need to have his aortic valve replaced. The signs would become clear.
“Since retirement, I’ve enjoyed being in three theater groups, including a murder mystery dinner theater. At one murder mystery event, we were scheduled to perform at a church, but I couldn’t make it from the parking lot to the church. My wife had to get me a wheelchair,” said Gillisse.
That was just one of several clear signs that this retired florist needed further medical intervention. At one point, he couldn’t walk the 277 steps from his condo to the mailbox and back. “I had to drive to the mailbox,” Gillisse recalled. “My chest pain and shortness of breath made it too difficult to walk.”
Recognizing that life was becoming more sedentary and that Gillisse’s symptoms were getting worse, Wolfson referred his patient to Mercy Health’s Regional Medical Director for Structural Heart Disease, Kristopher Selke, DO FACC, FSCAI.
“My father describes me as a ‘plumber for the heart,'” said Selke. “Our team provides minimally-invasive, patient-centered solutions for mechanical problems of the heart, such as holes or blockages in the heart valve problems or flap problems.”
Selke describes himself as an orchestra leader of a multidisciplinary, collaborative team with 13 to 15 members who deliver state-of-the-art, comprehensive cardiac care. Upon meeting Gillisse, Selke explained the two options for valve replacement: open heart surgery and the newer transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) procedure.
TAVR is a minimally invasive procedure through which the damaged aortic valve can be replaced using a balloon catheter technique. By utilizing this technique, patients avoid a chest incision, experience a shorter hospital stay, and can recover more rapidly — allowing a quicker return to daily life.
Gillisse’s other option for valve replacement was open heart surgery, with a much longer recovery time. Gillisse chose the less invasive TAVR procedure.
“Everything went fine. I wanted to see a chaplain before the procedure, so that made me feel good that I could do that. I had no problems and no questions after Dr. Selke explained everything to me. It went like clockwork. It was very smooth at Mercy Health.”
And how is Gillisse’s quality of life now? “It’s like night and day. Before TAVR, I had to stop everything — my acting and my bowling. I would get up in the morning, walk to the living room, sit on the couch and exercise my thumb with the remote. I feel a lot better now.”
Gillisse is attending cardiac rehab therapy twice a week and goes to an aquatic center once a week to help regain his stamina. He is back to acting and bowling with his friends.
Selke is also pleased with his patient’s progress. “Jack is a humorous, dynamic and interactive person with a passion for life. Every day he is improving, which is ultimately our goal: to get people back to what they want to do. Because of Mercy Health’s specially-trained cardiologists, cardiothoracic and vascular surgeons, technologists, nurses and staff, we are able to make large differences quickly, improving the quality of a patient’s life.”
Getting back to doing what he enjoys is a blessing for Gillisse. “I would heartily recommend TAVR. If they didn’t offer TAVR, I might not even be here.”