Joe Koester

Aortic Valve Replacement Surgery Restores Joe’s Heart Function

Joe Koester lived with a heart murmur for 40 years because he was born with a heart defect. Joe’s condition, called bicuspid aortic valve disease (BAVD), caused his heart’s aortic valve to function adequately, but not perfectly.

After performing a yearly sonogram to monitor Joe’s heart, Cardiologist
Dr. Kevin Miller with St. Elizabeth Heart & Vascular Institute told Joe that his aortic valve finally needed to be replaced. Joe said that was all he needed to hear and went to meet with Dr. Victor Schmelzer, a Cardiovascular Surgeon with St. Elizabeth Heart & Vascular Institute.

When he met with Dr. Schmelzer, Joe asked what would happen if he didn’t have the surgery. Dr. Schmelzer told Joe he would likely have only two years to live. Joe answered, “I’m not going to accept that, so let’s get on with the program!” After discussing the procedure with Dr. Schmelzer and reviewing options for the aortic replacement valve, Joe opted for a ceramic valve because it lasts forever — unlike animal valves that may have to be replaced every 10 to 15 years.

Dr. Schmelzer performed open-heart surgery to replace Joe’s damaged aortic valve. “My surgery went flawlessly,” said Joe. “I spent five nights in the hospital and received wonderful around-the-clock care.”

Heart & Lung Surgery Services at St. Elizabeth

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A month after surgery, Joe started cardiac rehabilitation. As part of his individually prescribed therapy program, Joe went to St. Elizabeth’s Cardiac Rehab Center three days a week for three months. During his sessions, his exercise was monitored by cardiac rehab nurses and his daily readings were monitored by Dr. Miller.

“Cardiac rehab was a great experience. The staff was very helpful and caring; I never felt like a number,” Joe said. “The nurses gave me tips, took my blood pressure and pushed me in a good way. They also taught me how to incorporate exercise into my day-to-day life.”

Now fully recovered, Joe is back to running his jewelry store in Ft. Mitchell, spending time with family and being an active member of the St. Elizabeth Foundation, which he’s done for more than 25 years.

“I’m sharing my story because Kentucky has a lot of cardiac deaths. People shouldn’t be frightened, however, because St. Elizabeth regularly performs a large number of difficult heart procedures and has nationally recognized outcomes.”

Joe continued, “People used to think they needed to go across the river to get the best heart care. That isn’t the case anymore; St. Elizabeth has changed that.

“My life was saved by this Institute. I love St. Elizabeth.”