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Heart surgery first of its kind in Idaho

By By Chris Cole
Published On: Dec 18 2013 11:46:28 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 19 2013 12:28:54 PM CST

Mabel Groves, 93, said she's been healthy her whole life, until she was diagnosed a critical aortic stenosis. But only four days after her surgery, she will be going home.

POCATELLO, Idaho -

Problems with your heart are a serious health risk. But imagine having heart surgery and leaving the hospital just a few days later.

Mabel Groves said she's been as healthy as can be her whole life. But recently, she was diagnosed with critical aortic stenosis, the narrowing of her heart valve openings. But instead of doctors saying she was a poor candidate for surgery, they performed one of the least invasive surgeries possible.

"I'm happy as a lark," Groves said, saying she felt a little weak after surgery, although she had quite the strong handshake. "It's wonderful. I wouldn't be alive in a year if it weren't for Dr. DeLaRosa."

"My initial impression of her was, here's a woman who can't see very well, and can't hear," said Dr. Jacob DeLaRosa, Chief of Cardiac Surgery at Portneuf Medical Center.
"Her mind was just sharp, and quick and with it. I asked her if she wanted to live, and she said, "Do you want to live?" And I said, "Yes." And she said, "Then why the hell would I not want to live?"

Doctors made a small incision in her chest, then began the process to fix her aortic valve through laparoscopic surgery. With a regular transcatheter aortic valve replacement surgery, they would normally have had to break the sternum or go through arteries in the groin area.

DeLaRosa said in addition to less recovery time, the surgery itself takes a lot less time. Groves' operation took about 40 minutes, compared to traditional aortic valve replacement surgery that last between six and eight hours.

DeLaRosa said he thinks the lack of trauma to her body will help her recover, but he said that's not the only thing that will help.

"Nobody should ever be told they're too old to ever have an operation," DeLaRosa said. "I think with the new technology that's available, especially with cardiac surgery, that it's not about age. It's about attitude."

Groves said she has big plans once she gets out of the hospital and is fully recovered.

"I'm a pilot," she said, "But I'd love to learn to fly a helicopter." 

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