WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — When everyday tasks begin to cause pain or discomfort, it’s often a sign something might not be right and a Burkburnett woman learned something really wasn’t right when an unrelated trip to the emergency department at United Regional confirmed her fears.
A minimally invasive heart procedure gave former educator, Betty Kutchera, her life back fast. Kutchera’s hobby of gardening took a turn in the worst way.
“When I’d bend over to plant something, I’d kind of blackout when I came to, I wouldn’t fall down or anything but I was just I couldn’t see a thing, for just a moment,” Kutchera said. “I was always looking for something to hang on to in case I blacked out.”
It was a trip to the emergency department with sepsis that answered a different question about her health.
“When they did the test, just routine I guess test, they caught that I had calcification in my valve,” Kutchera said. “It was kind of a surprise to me, I knew something was wrong but I thought it was my blood pressure.”
See, it was during a height of COVID-19, September 2020, when Kutchera learned of her aortic stenosis diagnosis so she decided to put it off for just a little while.
“They warned me the symptoms will get bad fast, and they did,” Kutchera said.
Kutchera, who was born with a heart murmur, found herself on the eighth floor of United Regional at the Cardiac Institute the next summer where the trans-aortic valve replacement or TAVR procedure was still fairly new to the hospital.
“I was real proud of myself that I never had to have a heart doctor until I was 70, but boy all of a sudden I needed one bad,” Kutchera said.
After Heart Valve Clinic Coordinator Rebecca Lindeman, Cardiologist Dr. Andre Desire and Dr. Bruce Palmer went over the procedure and the benefits she decided this was the right route and the right place to take it.
“It just seemed so simple compared to the normal, opening your chest up,” Kutchera said.
Dr. Desire explained what is happening during aortic stenosis and why it’s best not to avoid it.
“The valve is narrowed, not enough blood and oxygen are getting to the rest of the body, what people do, they actually modify what they do, they slow down a little bit so that they don’t get that dizziness, lightheadedness or even passing out at times and not get shortness or breath,” Desire said. “But after the valve is replaced they realize ‘oh my god, I’ve never felt any better.”
“I just got on board, but I was nervous, I will say I’ve never been this nervous about anything, I’ve had over 30 surgeries and I was more scared about this than any,” Kutchera said.
Then she thought of her family.
“I went and visited my granddaughter in Chicago and my granddaughter in Oklahoma City, even though they’re little bitty, but you know, I wanted to see them,” Kutchera said. “They’re our pride and joy.”
She knew she needed to be there for them.
In July 2021 she got ready for the procedure, which uses a balloon to crimp the new valve down into the sheath and then blow it into place.
“Fortunately we couldn’t have picked anyone better because she learned a lot about the procedure herself, she did a lot of the homework which made our job a lot easier because she came prepared,” Desire said.
“This young anesthesiologist leaned over, I guess he could tell I was very nervous and he leaned over and I could feel his cheek touch mine and he said ‘you’re going to be just fine, don’t be afraid’ and it just snapped me out of it,” Kutchera said. “I spent the night in the hospital, went home and it was just like it used to be, you know before I had all these symptoms.”
Kutchera now has a new lease on life.
“We went to a car show in Colorado the next month and in December we went to Disney World with our 4-year-old granddaughter, it’s life’s back to normal and like I’ve almost forgotten that this happened,” Kutchera said.
Getting her life back and realizing it’s much too short not to live it to the fullest.
Kutchera was just the third patient to have this done at United Regional.
She went to 30-plus sessions of rehab through URHCS and she said it ended up being very enjoyable.