• Sue ShawA Brand New Sue

    Sue Shaw has had Type 1 diabetes for more than 50 years. She's a good example of the toll the disease can take on a body, and how proper management can result in living a more normal life.

    "I've tried very hard to take good care of myself, but I've enjoyed myself, too, by having an occasional treat" is how Shaw puts it.

    She became a Type 1 diabetic, previously known as juvenile diabetes, when she was 21 and pregnant with her daughter. She blames the disease for the major heart problems that began to plague her in her 50s.

    "In 2002, I was on vacation in Florida, when I began feeling short of breath with pain in my back," she said. She was in the midst of a heart attack, which in women, often have vague symptoms like that instead of the classic chest pain. Fortunately, she realized something was seriously wrong, and sought out emergency help. She ended up having quadruple bypass surgery, out of town, an experience she described as "not very pleasant, and scary."

    That surgery largely resolved her problems, or so it seemed, for the next 13 years. But in the fall of 2015, she periodically began to feel very ill, and needed to be on oxygen. This time, it was a failing heart valve that was putting her into congestive heart failure (CHF). In total, she spent nine weeks in and out of Memorial University Medical Center with CHF. She felt terrible, and her quality of life was low.

    That's when Dale Daly, M.D., her cardiologist from Memorial Savannah Cardiology, proposed a valve replacement using the transcatheter aortic valve (TAVR) procedure, which doesn't involve actually opening the chest. The TAVR procedure uses minimally invasive techniques to fit a replacement valve inside the malfunctioning one. Because Shaw has smaller arteries, the surgical team entered her heart via an artery just below her collarbone, instead of via the groin, a more common site for such procedures. Complex procedures like TAVR are a team effort, and between consultation and procedure, her physician team included Daly, Mark Jenkins, M.D., and a cardiothoracic surgeon.

    "The TAVR is a surprisingly quick surgery, also. The procedure was done on Thursday morning, and I was home on Saturday afternoon," she said.

    "After the TAVR, I feel like a new person. I'm off the oxygen, I can walk, my legs don't swell," she said. "If you can call being in the hospital a good experience, being in Memorial was, thanks to the wonderful doctors and staff."