Soffer described the MitraClip procedure, a minimally invasive alternative to opening the chest and stopping the heart. Instead, under a much lower dose of anesthesia, doctors guide a catheter through a vein in the leg to the mitral valve and, in Karen’s case, attach the rogue posterior leaflet to the stable anterior leaflet, so they can pump in tandem.
“This is a procedure that was designed for patients like Karen,” Soffer said. “Opening her up would not have been an option because she would not have been able to come off the ventilator.”
Three months prior, Karen listened to Soffer’s MitraClip suggestion. Overwhelmed by the news, she went home to think. However, at that point in February, fear of the unknown was winning. All that could go wrong weighed on her brain as heavily as an anvil on her chest.
The lung disease scared Karen. She didn’t want to end up on a ventilator. In addition, she feared if anything went wrong and chest compressions were required, “every bone in my body would break from osteoporosis.”
As May approached, the risk-versus-reward gap got a lot smaller.
“I guess I got to the point where there was really no decision to be made,” Karen said. “It was either live or not live. I had to do it for my granddaughter and for any future grandchildren I might have.”
She scheduled an appointment with Soffer, but her body betrayed her before she got ready to leave that afternoon. Holding her chest, through gasps of air, she pushed out the words, “I don’t think I’m going to make it.” Panicking at her feet, a graying red Poodle howled uncontrollably.
“Mickey made sounds I’ve never heard from him. He sensed I was in bad shape.”
Fearing an ambulance would take her to another hospital, her husband, who is an OB/GYN at UF Health Jacksonville, drove her straight to the main campus emergency room.
“We gave her medication to dry out her lungs,” Soffer recalled. “Six days later, on May 21, we operated.” It was not a completely pre-planned procedure.