Published on August 02, 2021

Local Farmer’s Advice: Listen to Your Heart’s Warning Signs

Bayport resident James “Sid” Smith enjoys his daily chores around the farm.

James “Sid” Smith owns a farm in the thumb and enjoys growing all types of crops. While he’s not a stranger to working long days when the weather cooperates, he began to notice a decrease in his stamina last year. At first, he assumed it was just a sign of aging. Slowing down at 80 years old, he thought, was a natural part of life. As time went on, it became a more prevalent issue and he started notice that his heart seemed labored even while walking to the mailbox at the end of his long driveway. When Smith went to see his primary care provider for his annual check-up, he shared how he was feeling.

“I knew I was slowing down, but believed it was just my age,” said Smith. “How does a man know what his heart should sound like at 80, when he’s never been 80 before?” After conducting a physical examination and listening to Smith’s heart, his primary care provider ordered an echocardiogram and referred him to Interventional Cardiologist Andrzej Boguszewski, M.D.

After reviewing the test results, Dr. Boguszewski diagnosed Smith with aortic stenosis, a narrowing of the aortic valve opening that restricts the blood flow from the left ventricle to the aorta. He recommended a transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) procedure to help improve the efficiency of Smith’s heart and increase blood flow to his body. During this minimally-invasive procedure, the physician inserts a catheter into an easily-accessible artery which is then directed up to the heart where a new aortic valve is inserted. This is done without having to stop the heart from beating. While TAVR is not suitable for all patients, Dr. Boguszewski knew this alternative approach to traditional surgery was a good option in this case.

Smith was glad to know there was something that could correct his condition, but he was unsure about undergoing a procedure at the hospital during the initial height of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Because it was relatively early on in the pandemic, I asked to delay the procedure until the end of the year,” he said.

Smith continued his farm work even though he was steadily getting weaker. He also noticed his legs and feet were swollen at the end of the day. “The best way for me to describe it is that it felt like a little bit of weight was added to my back every couple of months,” he said. “Because I didn’t experience a big event, I didn’t realize that delaying my treatment was actually doing further damage to my heart.”

Dr. Boguszewski and the TAVR team had been keeping tabs on Smith, and the time came when they all agreed that he couldn’t put it off any longer. Smith requested the COVID-19 vaccination before his procedure, and MidMichigan Health was able to accommodate that request, which eased his mind. The procedure went very smoothly, and today Smith says he feels years younger.

“I had gotten accustomed to feeling winded and tired. It kind of creeps up on you. Now, I feel so much better. I am certain this will help my longevity and has greatly improved my overall quality of life,” he added.

Smith has always led an active lifestyle but has made a new commitment to lose weight and choose a more heart-healthy diet. He reports having no pain or worries working his farm and taking care of the lawn, and the swelling in his legs and feet are gone. “Just knowing the problem is fixed has taken a huge weight off my shoulders. If I had known how good it would feel, I’d have done it sooner,” he said. “My advice to others is: don’t wait. Listen to warning signs and don’t assume you know the cause. Get things checked out.”

Those who would like more information about aortic stenosis and the TAVR procedure may visit www.midmichigan.org/tavr. More information about Dr. Boguszewski can be found at www.midmichigan.org/boguszewski.