Military Mom's Broken Heart Mended - FOX 26 News | MyFoxHouston

Military Mom's Broken Heart Mended


Houston doctors are using a brand new medical procedure to mend a broken heart and help save the life of a mom with three sons serving our country.

Cardiologists and surgeons are working together to implant an FDA-approved artificial aortic valve in the heart by using a catheter. It sounds a little complicated, but it means no major surgery.

German-born Patrizia Simmons has quite the military family. She lives in Fort Polk, Louisiana with her husband. She has 1 child stationed in Germany, another at Ford Hood and another living in Idaho.

So how did she end up at Memorial Hermann in Houston? Radiation treatments for Lymphoma and a very bad breathing problem.

“All night I could not breathe, sit, stand, lay and we decided it was time I had to go into the ER,” Patrizia said.

“She’s a young lady, but has an old valve due to the radiation damage we think, so she wasn’t a candidate for open heart surgery,” UTHealth Cardiologist, Dr. Richard Smalling said

Normally a patient like Patrizia would've been given some medication and sent home, and who knows what would've happened.

“When it fails, blood backs up in the lungs, people pass out, get irregular heart rhythms and actually die,” Smalling said.

Fortunately, an artificial heart valve was just approved by the FDA, and Smalling knew he could get it to Patrizia's heart safely through a catheter inserted through her groin artery.

“So the old valve is pressed up against the walls of the aorta and the new valve is in the middle of it opening and closing normally just like the patients own valve,” he said. “It allows people that are originally wouldn’t have the opportunity to live another 5-10-20 years, to live and have a productive life.”

Just 2 weeks after surgery at Memorial Hermann, Patrizia was back to work on the military base.

“I feel a lot better,” she said. “It’s not as soon as I stand up, I have to sit back down.”

She can now focus on her grandchildren.

“Maybe they'll be exhausted and not me.”

And continue to fight cancer.

“I can focus on getting treatments for my cancer.”

She is in town right now for her one-month check-up. Her doctor says everything is looking great.

She said her energy level has definitely increased which is a good thing, considering she will become a grandmother again this spring.

Dr. Richard Smalling
UTHealth/Memorial Hermann

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