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Lewis Burton – Cardiac Rehab Success Story

Miles and miles of heart

How a minimally invasive heart procedure is keeping volunteer Chaplain Lewis Burton 92 years young

It’s not every day you hear about a 92-year-old World War II veteran who has almost walked the distance of the Earth’s circumference (24,901 miles). Lewis Burton has been logging his miles since the day he started jogging in 1968.

In his work as a volunteer chaplain at Methodist Richardson Medical Center, Lewis even has a reputation for taking the stairs two at a time. With such boundless energy, he never suspected he’d be trading the chapel for the operating room and an emergency heart valve replacement.

A heart in the right place

After a decades long career as an aircraft engineer, Lewis and his wife of 63 years, Ann, retired to Richardson from Kansas to be near their two children and five grandchildren.

The Burtons are family-focused and devoted to their faith. Lewis’ 50-plus years of singing in a church choir are a testament of that devotion. So when he was asked to become a volunteer chaplain, he jumped at the chance.

“I’ve been a chaplain for 13 years at Methodist Richardson, and I still enjoy it as much as I ever have,” Lewis says. “I always try to visit all 25 rooms on my list before I leave for the day. Having done this for so long, I’m quite a familiar face around the hospital.”

Lewis’ lagging energy was making it harder to serve. Then a couple of months after he noticed the fatigue, Lewis was admitted to the Methodist Richardson emergency department with shortness of breath and chest pains.

“I was told I’d had a mild heart attack,” Lewis says. “When the doctors did the echocardiogram, they discovered I had severe aortic stenosis, which is when the valve narrows and restricts blood flow.”

Twice the trouble

Nhan P. Nguyen, MD, interventional cardiologist on the medical staff at Methodist Richardson, performed further tests on Lewis and discovered that he also had a severely blocked artery.

“Lewis had two separate issues with his heart,” Dr. Nguyen explains. “The blocked artery needed to be addressed by implanting stents, while the failing valve needed to be replaced.

“Complicating matters was Lewis’ age and that he had had quadruple bypass surgery 20 years ago. Ultimately these factors made him a poor candidate for open heart surgery to replace the valve.”

Dr. Nguyen was able to successfully implant stents in Lewis’ blocked artery through a minimally invasive procedure, restoring proper blood flow. With one problem solved, it was time to find a way to replace his failing aortic valve.

TAVR offers hope

Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) has only been performed in the U.S. for less than 10 years, but it has changed the way high-risk patients, like Lewis, are treated.

“Years ago, patients like Lewis didn’t have any surgical options,” explains Derek Williams, MD, cardiothoracic surgeon on the medical staff at Methodist Richardson. “With TAVR, we can offer valve replacement to those who cannot have open heart surgery. It has a much lower risk of bleeding and mortality because unlike during open heart surgery, it does not require stopping the heart and using a heart and lung machine.”

The TAVR procedure is actually straightforward, according to Dr. Williams. The valve implant is guided into the artery in the groin and then through the blood vessels to the aortic valve. The replacement valve expands into the damaged aortic valve’s space and takes over the valve function.

Lewis had the TAVR on a Thursday and went home the very next day. Open heart surgery patients typically must remain in the hospital for five to six days. By the next Wednesday, Lewis was back on his rounds as a volunteer chaplain.

“I felt great after my surgery,” Lewis says. “They had me up and walking the same day. I was thrilled to get back to my duties as a chaplain. It’s what I love most.”

Advancing cardiac care

Bringing TAVR and other advanced heart procedures to Methodist Richardson is part of an ongoing commitment to raise the bar for cardiac care in the community.

“The team that has been put together to build and grow the structural heart and valve program at Methodist Richardson is a powerful lineup of experienced surgeons and cardiologists,” Dr. Williams says. “Going forward, not only will patients choose Methodist Richardson because it’s their community hospital, but also because we have a high-tech facility serving as a structural heart center.”

Even at age 92, Lewis Burton is known for his energy, having logged thousands of miles of jogging and walking in the past 50 years. Two heart procedures at Methodist Richardson have helped make sure that he continues to have that energy for the many miles ahead.

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After the TAVR procedure, Lewis Burton, here with his wife of 63 years, Ann, can confidently stay active and keep serving as a volunteer chaplain.