Bill Seaford’s neighbors like to joke that at 90, he still walks faster than the high school kids who jog past their yards. And it’s not even much of an exaggeration.
After having coffee with his son, Tony, early each morning, Seaford heads up Todd Road at a brisk pace. He walks for as long as 90 minutes on the long, hilly road near the Yadkin River where he lives in Advance, North Carolina.
A couple of years ago, this impressive morning routine seemed like it might be broken for good. There were days when Seaford felt so bad he couldn’t make it past Tony and his daughter-in-law Brenda’s place next door. “I really didn’t know what it was,” Seaford said. “I would get out of breath and I’d have to sit down and stop.”
Seaford wound up being admitted to Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center in Winston-Salem with congestive heart failure (CHF) and had a stent put in. He had fluid on his lungs and swelling in his legs, said Dr. Samuel Turner , his interventional cardiologist at Novant Health Cardiology.
Then, it was a year ago that Bill had the procedure that made the biggest difference — a minimally invasive procedure on his leaky mitral heart valve. The leaky valve produces a condition known as mitral regurgitation.
The procedure is called TMVR (transcatheter mitral valve repair), and is performed as a simple alternative to open-heart surgery. Instead of going into the heart through a patient’s chest, surgeons make an incision in the patient’s groin to reach the heart.
From there, doctors put a small clip on the valve to stop the leaking. In the past, surgical treatment for mitral regurgitation would have called for open-heart surgery, which can be particularly risky for some patients, including someone like Bill who had an open-heart surgery after a heart attack in 1994.
“There are a lot of reasons to be short of breath and he had multiple possibilities,” said Turner referring to Seaford’s CHF, severe heart blockages and a leaky mitral valve. “He got a little bit better with treating his heart failure and heart blockages, but I think the thing that helped him the most was the mitral valve procedure that we did.”
Turner said patients typically stay in the hospital for only a night or two after TMVR and then go home.
“I’d say within a week after I got home I was back walking and when I went back to Dr. Turner he told me I could do most anything I felt like doing,” Seaford said. “I’ve gotten along real well.”
Whacking weeds, driving the tractor
Seaford not only does his own cooking and laundry but cuts his grass and his son’s, too. That’s 2 acres, total. He’s also been known to grab a weed-eater, start a chain saw or fire up the tractor when needed.
Seaford has been a blessing for his family for as long as those who love him can remember. He was a devoted care provider for his wife of more than 60 years, Peggy, even when he himself was well into in his 80s. When Peggy was dealing with broken bones, he tended to her every need. Now, he cooks breakfast for his great-grandkids some mornings and shuttles them to and from school to help out the busy work schedules of his granddaughter and her husband, who works extended shifts as a firefighter.
Turner said he encourages TMVR patients to get routine cardiac activity by exercising 30 minutes three to four times per week – that should be no problem for Seaford – and to have routine check-ups with their primary care provider and cardiologist, letting them know if they have worsening symptoms, chest pain or shortness of breath.
Tony and Brenda said they had worried some that when Peggy passed away a few years ago, Seaford might start losing steam. That has not been the case. While she is still very much in his heart, he is rolling on with his family, his yardwork, his friends, and those walks along the hills of Todd Road.
For more information on heart care provided at Novant Health, click here .