Spencer and Joan DeCuir of Mansura have been married for 50 years. A new surgical procedure at Rapides Regional Medical Center was able to replace a defective heart valve that has given Spencer a new lease on life.
“Now we’re ready for the next 50 years,” Joan joked.

Mansura man first to undergo less invasive heart surgery in Cenla

Joan & Spencer DeCuir celebrate 50th anniversary after procedure

For Spencer and Joan DeCuir, their 50th anniversary on Aug. 31 was more than just a personal milestone few achieve in their lives.

For this Mansura couple, it was a celebration of a second chance at life, made possible by the recent addition of a non-invasive heart valve replacement procedure.

“This was absolutely a miracle,” Joan said of the Aug. 17 surgery at Rapides Regional Medical Center (RRMC).

Spencer, 73, has kidney disease, and so was not a good candidate for open-heart surgery to replace a defect in his aortic valve.

She said his doctor told them that the hospital had just finished implementing a new unit to provide “transcatheter aortic valve replacement” (TAVR). The procedure is much less invasive and less hard on the patient than the traditional surgery to replace a defective valve.

“They said he would be the first patient in the new unit,” Joan said.

She said it took a few months of preparation as the doctors “did things in stages so as not to damage Spencer’s kidneys.”

Spencer spent a few days in ICU for observation and was sent home on Aug. 20. A follow-up on Aug. 23 “found that he was doing great. His heartbeat was going smoothly and the procedure did not affect his kidneys at all.” Joan joked that Spencer’s main concern in the week after his surgery “was how much dirty rice he would have to cook for our party on Sept. 1.”

The DeCuirs held a large party at the VFW in Marksville for about a 100 friends and family members. It was held a day after their anniversary to enable their many out-of-town guests time to travel to attend the gala. The TAVR surgery was performed by cardiologist Dr. Kanna V. Posina.

The procedure is done to address a condition known as “aortic stenosis” -- a narrowing of the aortic heart valve.

Approximately 2.5 million Americans over the age of 75 have this condition. About 250,000 new cases diagnosed each year.

The American College of Cardiology estimates 50,000 patients will have TAVR in 2018. The number of TAVR procedures is expected to double by 2020.

Many patients are able to undergo traditional open-heart surgery to replace the aortic valve. Some are not candidates for open-heart surgery due to their medical condition, but TAVR offers a less-invasive option to replace the unhealthy aortic valve. Before now, patients in this area requiring TAVR had to seek treatment elsewhere.

“This is another way for us to serve our community because people no longer have to seek this treatment away from home,” RRMC Chief Nursing Officer Barbara Griffin said. “We are proud to be able to provide this higher level of cardiac care for our community.”

The TAVR procedure is done in a cath lab setting with the new valve usually being inserted into the heart through a catheter in the femoral artery.

“The planning for this has taken more than a year and involves many disciplines,” RRMC Director of Cardiovascular Service Line Chad Hinton said. “We’ve had multi-disciplinary team meetings to discuss each eligible patient. The patients have to be vetted by two cardiovascular surgeons, cardiologists and team members.

“This has truly been a team effort to get to this point.”

Rapides Regional had to achieve several performance benchmarks before it was approved to perform TAVR surgery.

“This was a historical moment for healthcare in Central Louisiana and provides another example of how our medical staff, nurses and employees provide healthcare on a higher level.” hospital CEO Jason Cobb said.

Joan said it is important that people in this area know that this procedure is available here “and they don’t have to go as far away as New Orleans. They also need to know that their condition may not require open-heart surgery.

“Instead of being in a hospital for a week or longer recovering from major surgery, they can have this procedure and be home in just a few days.”

Since Spencer has repaired his defective heart valve, “now we’re ready for the next 50 years,” Joan joked.

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