The Heart of the Matter - New Procedure Benefits Local Icon
Rudy Koshar of St. Joseph faced a life or death situation. His heart was giving out again. He’d had a quintuple-bypass surgery in 1998, and at age 91, his doctors nixed another open heart surgery. They gently sent him home with a prognosis of about a year. He and his wife, Dorothy, even went to Chicago looking for second opinions and came home with no new options.
“It was getting bad,” Rudy said. “I was really showing my age.”
Rudy had always been active. Coming to the Twin Cities after serving in World War II, he’d owned a series of gas stations and auto sales businesses. For 40 years, Rudy narrated original,
unscripted radio commercials featuring first Rudy’s Sunoco on the corner of Fair and Britain Avenues in Benton Harbor, then for Rudy’s Auto Sales on the corner of Hilltop and Washington
Avenue in St. Joseph (now the location of Chili’s restaurant). His commercials were popular. When Rudy retired in 1999, Toyota called him. He made Toyota commercials for a dozen years until his health deteriorated.
Rudy’s cardiologist Thomas Pow, MD, of Great Lakes Heart and Vascular Institute, had walked the long road with Rudy through a stent in 1989 and the quintuple bypass. Dr. Pow and cardiothoracic surgeon Kourosh Baghelai, MD, of Lakeshore Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery, watched the development of a less-invasive surgery called transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR).
Since earning FDA approval for its Sapien valve in 2011, the manufacturer Edwards Lifesciences has been carefully selecting high-performing hospitals to offer the new device. Based on the quality of their cardiac programs and the ability to meet certain Medicare criteria, Edwards selected Bronson and Lakeland to pioneer the procedure in southwest Michigan. They are the first and only two-hospital team in the country performing TAVR. TAVR procedures are performed on the campus of Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo.
When the team looked for its first TAVR patients in summer 2012, Rudy kept coming to mind as an ideal first candidate. Dr. Pow told Rudy and Dorothy about a brand-new surgery, and “I didn’t even hesitate,” Rudy said. “I knew it was right. I had to do it.”
On November 12, Rudy was the Lakeland/Bronson team’s first TAVR patient. “I was only in the hospital three days and then out,” he said. “It’s a procedure you don’t feel. Just a small incision and a couple of pokes.”
Before surgery, Rudy had to take several rest breaks mowing his lawn. He could no longer care for his beloved horses. Now he’s back in the stables throwing hay and setting out feed.
“This summer, I’m going to mow the lawn all in one shot,” he boasted.
Dr. Pow approved Rudy’s plan. Rudy has also returned to the radio airwaves. He said, “I’m here because of Dr. Pow and Dr. Baghelai. I was fortunate that I was one of the first to have it done, and to come out of it successfully. I never thought I’d make it this far, but thanks to the Lord and thanks to this operation, I’m feeling better every day.”