Santa Rosa woman gives heartfelt thanks to doctors and care providers who saved her life
Yvonne Marcucci Thibault was born in the town of Sonoma and lived in the El Verano area for years before moving to her home in Santa Rosa. Her heart and heritage lie in both cities and while she endured several evacuations from wildfires, she couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.
Like many of us, the threat of COVID-19 took a toll on Yvonne. She was scared for her 102-year-old mother, her family, and her friends. Despite her concerns about potential exposure to the virus, she never delayed her medical care and continued to see her cardiologist for regular appointments. During a routine echocardiogram it was confirmed that a valve (that been inserted into her heart in 2017) had narrowed and started leaking causing stenosis and heart failure.
Historically, the only option for patients with a failed surgical mitral valve was to redo open heart surgery, which is associated with a high risk of complications. Thankfully, in 2019, Providence Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital became the only hospital in the North Bay to offer a new minimally invasive procedure, called a transcatheter mitral valve-in-valve. Masis Babajanian, M.D., cardiologist, and Vishal Patel, M.D., invasive cardiologist/proceduralist, recommended Yvonne have this procedure to repair the leak without needing to replace the existing valve.
“Transcatheter mitral valve-in-valve replacement is a much lower risk [than heart surgery] and an incredibly effective therapeutic option for patients,” said Dr. Patel. “The procedure is done under general anesthesia. Patients typically spend one night in the hospital and go home the next day. We ask that patients avoid heavy lifting (nothing more than a gallon of milk) for one week but they are otherwise able to return to their usual activities."
“It’s a state-of-the-art procedure,” said Wendy Dunnagan, nursing director in Santa Rosa Memorial’s Heart and Vascular Institute. “It’s amazing because this new technology extends the life of the valve, and thereby the person’s lifespan, substantially.”
In November 2022, the procedure was performed by Dr. Patel and Dr. Keith Korver, who was the cardiothoracic surgeon who had inserted the valve in Yvonne’s heart in 2017. In one of Memorial’s new state-of-the-art cath labs, the care team inserted a catheter into Yvonne's femoral vein, going up towards her heart. Then, a catheter was placed that contained a folded up mitral valve. The team used fluoroscopy technology to take real-time x-rays that helped guide the catheter and place the new mitral valve into the existing valve, which repaired the leak by opening and expanding the valve. The procedure was successful, and Yvonne was discharged the next day.
“I couldn’t have asked for better care and a better result. The physicians were knowledgeable, attentive and I had excellent surgeons who are very good at what they do. They made me feel confident,” said Yvonne. “It wasn’t painful or stressful. I have a little light-colored scar, but it isn’t something that bothers me, it’s a sign of survival.”
While Yvonne didn’t need cardiac rehab after her second procedure, she did enjoy attending it after her first procedure, almost exactly six years ago. She said it was great for the “social aspect. You met people who were going through similar experiences.”
Providence Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital was recently recognized with a Blue Distinction Centers for Cardiac Care designation as part of the Blue Distinction Specialty Care program for showing expertise in delivering improved patient safety and better health outcomes.
Click here to learn more about our Heart and Vascular Institute.