Revolutionary procedure saves teacher’s life

Sharon Daly was one of the first recipients of a bovine aortic valve. - Scott Stanfield
Sharon Daly was one of the first recipients of a bovine aortic valve.
— image credit: Scott Stanfield

Scott Stanfield

Record Staff

Dr. John Webb saved Sharon Daly’s life.

He did so by way of an experimental procedure called transcatheter aortic valve replacement, which he pioneered at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.

Six years ago, Daly underwent the now-approved procedure which gave her a bovine, aortic valve.

“It worked,” said Daly, 67, a Comox resident who works as a teacher on call. “There were some anxious moments there.”

Daly, who has always lived with a heart murmur, realized she would eventually need a new valve. The time arrived one day on the tennis court when her friends noticed her breathing was becoming laboured.

She saw a cardiologist and attended a local open heart surgery meeting where she was comforted by other people’s stories.

A July, 2008 visit to a doctor revealed her chest cavity was too brittle for open heart surgery. But then she was alerted to a brand new technique.

“I remember his words,” Daly said. “He said, ‘Whatever surgery you have will be tailored to your needs’.”

She got the call in September and underwent surgery in October, 2008. Hers was the 200th operation. Since then, there have been about 1,000 successful operations. Surgery, she said, is now sufficiently refined that only a local anaesthetic is required. If all goes well, patients can be in and out the same day.

“It’s come a long way in the six years since I’ve had the surgery. It’s usually much older people that they take on.”

Daly credits Webb for literally saving her life. She had been given three to five years to live before hearing about the revolutionary procedure.

“He has enabled me to continue on with all the things that I really love in life,” she said. “I want to pay it forward.”

In a gesture to “strike out” heart disease, Daly has been asked to pitch the opening ball for a Vancouver Canadians baseball game on Thursday, Aug. 14.

It’s been a few years since she last played catch — which is why she asked to borrow a mitt and ball from some kids she happened upon recently at a park.

“I’m practising with a tennis ball against odd shapes in the backyard,” Daly said with a laugh.


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