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Grateful Patient Bob Reed Gives Back With All His Heart

Dec 30, 2016, 13:50 PM by Nicole Young
Bob Reed
After undergoing two major procedures to clear the arteries in his heart, you might guess that a hospital would be the last place 84-year-old Bob Reed would want to spend his free time. But the truth is he relishes his volunteer role greeting patients. This extremely positive and cheerful senior citizen regularly crosses paths with many medical staff members who treated him. He claims he’s just paying it forward, grateful to have a second chance at life, and appreciative of the personal connections he’s made. “I love every one of those doctors there,” declares Reed. And the feeling is mutual. Reed is practically a mini-celebrity at Cottage Hospital. He shows up early to have breakfast before his weekly shift, and enjoys striking up a friendly banter with everyone from the surgeons to the kitchen crew. “I feel like I am needed and I could do some good,” says Reed.

It was during his Wednesday morning volunteer slot last fall that Reed noticed he was getting winded while walking down long hallways or up stairs, a frustrating feeling for an active person, who doesn’t like to be incapacitated and prefers to just get up and go. He remembered meeting Dr. Joseph Aragon, a Sansum Clinic specialist in cardiovascular medicine and interventional cardiology. Reed and his wife, Linda, were impressed with Dr. Aragon’s demeanor and expertise. With the possibility of heart problems on the horizon, they chose Dr. Aragon to be their guide. One listen with his stethoscope, and the physician heard a murmur in Reed’s heart. A murmur is a common symptom of aortic stenosis, and can be heard when a valve is not functioning properly. Up for debate was how to treat Reed, who in 2000 had undergone a six-way bypass to relieve clogged arteries. Whether he could tolerate another major surgery was in question. Dr. Aragon and his team had just begun to perform transcatheter aortic valve replacement or TAVR on select, high-risk patients with great success. During this revolutionary procedure, doctors place a new valve in the heart using a catheter inserted in the groin, thereby avoiding major surgery.

Dr. Aragon referred Reed to Jillian Loewen, a nurse practitioner dedicated to TAVR patients. A lengthy battery of tests would determine if Reed could be a candidate for the new procedure. Loewen grins widely when recalling Reed, describing him as a “firecracker,” always bursting with energy. But his medical condition was quickly declining. Once Dr. Aragon determined Reed fit the criteria, he explained how TAVR worked. Reed had no hesitation. “I was all for it. I would rather have an incision in my groin, than my chest. I had enough of that,” he explains. He told the doctor “Go for it!” and within a month, became one of the first Santa Barbara TAVR patients. “He got the valve and he did beautifully,” asserts Dr. Aragon. Reed left the hospital after a few days, and recovered at home much faster than with his openheart surgery. “It’s unbelievable. I can run through the hospital and never get tired. Before I was lucky to go upstairs and down again without having to sit and wait to get my breath back.”

In addition to his regular front desk shift, Reed also volunteers for the Mended Hearts Association. The organization is a community based, nationwide heart patient support network that partners with hospitals and rehab clinics. A member visited with Reed when he had open-heart surgery to educate him on the procedure, and to offer comfort to him and his family. This gentleman sharing his own experience was the perfect medicine for Reed, who at the time was worried and depressed. “It made me think, ‘maybe I do have a life ahead, so why am I so down?’” Reed recalls. He’s now president of the local chapter of Mended Hearts, and spends time with patients five days a month. Along with his YMCA workouts, dinner dances at the Elks Lodge and weekends seeing his gaggle of children and grandchildren, Reed’s calendar is packed for someone his age. And there’s no sign of slowing down. His commitment to others keeps him looking forward to another day. “I enjoy helping people. And it’s something that makes me enjoy life,” he adds with a wink.

For the Sansum Clinic Cardiology Department, call (805) 898-3138.
For more information on TAVR click here.
For more information on Mended Hearts Association: