Surgical advancements bring renewed hope to a heart patient

Louis Willa, heart disease, Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center

Our-Stories-WillaOne sunny day on a golf course, Louis Willa went to take a swing and felt slightly short of breath. He continued to feel this way every so often, but hoped whatever was ailing him would go away. He only worsened over time, until eventually he couldn't walk any distance at all without feeling out of breath.

"A few weeks later, I was sitting at home with my wife when my chest started to feel like it was being crushed by a ton of bricks," says Louis.

His wife rushed him to Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center where cardiologist Dr. Jacob Litwinczuk diagnosed Louis with aortic valve stenosis, a disease of the heart valve in which blood flow from the heart is decreased.

"I found out I needed a new heart valve, but my cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Richard Faro, feared I wouldn't make it through another surgery. So I waited, hopeful that a new revolutionary procedure would become available that could save me," he says.

Six years later, the transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) procedure arrived at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center. Dr. Litwinczuk told Louis that he would be the perfect candidate. The procedure is minimally invasive, which typically means a shorter hospital stay and fewer side effects.

"TAVR was pretty much my only option. I was anxious, but I knew my prayers had been answered, and this was my chance for survival," Louis says.

A groundbreaking surgery

Louis became the first patient to undergo the TAVR procedure at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center. Five exemplary doctors were involved with his surgery, including cardiothoracic surgeons Dr. Faro and Dr. Arthur Katz and cardiologists Dr. Litwinczuk and Dr. Augusto Villa.

"I am forever grateful to them for making it possible to receive my new valve," says Louis. "The recovery time was amazing. I was back on my feet three days later. Two weeks after the surgery, I was able to take a shower without huffing and puffing. I feel like I can do anything. My wife had me walk through the mall parking lot the other day, and not once did I get out of breath."

At the rate of his recovery, Louis is confident he’ll be back on the golf course soon.

"I'm so excited for what the future holds and am very fortunate to be able to spend more time with my beautiful wife," he says. "Thanks to this procedure, we’ll be able to celebrate our 53rd anniversary together."

Not only has TAVR successfully saved Louis’s life, but the procedure has the potential to extend the lives of many others.