Elva Humphreys pulls no punches in describing the change in her life.
"A year ago," she says, "I was waiting to die."
The Lebo woman's story goes back to 2004, when she noticed a lump that her doctor diagnosed as an abdominal aortic aneurysm. He told her he'd be in touch about surgery. Elva says when he finally called back, he said he was having problems getting positive answers because of Elva's age.
At the time, Elva was a spritely 99-years young! Doctors kept telling her the risk of surgery was too great. She says she went about her days worrying that at any moment the aneurysm would burst and she'd be in a life-threatening situation.
In July, the condition started causing pain. Elva, now 102-years old, once again met with doctors expecting the same answer. But then, Cotton O'Neil Heart Center Dr. Sanjay Tripathi walked in the room and said he was looking at her scans.
"I couldn't believe my ears," Elva said. "I thought where did this brave soul come from after all these years!"
Dr. Tripathi admits he was skeptical at first about considering surgery on a person Elva's age. He says 80-years old is generally considered the cutoff for major surgery because other health issues make it likely the patient's body won't be able to withstand the stress of surgery. After visiting Elva, Dr. Tripathi says, he thought "she was a remarkable woman in great physical condition."
Not only that - he had a new way to correct her condition. Instead of a major incision, Dr. Tripathi could use a minimally invasive technique. He says surgeons would make small incisions and work through these incisions to fix the aneurysm, so there's less stress on the body and less risk of complications.
Dr. Tripathi says Elva's anuerysm was to the point where it was getting ready to rupture. The vessel walks were weakened and ballooning. To fix it, he worked through small incisions to insert a stent graft, to restrengthen the vessel and let blood flow properly.
Dr. Tripathi says minimally invasive techniques are being developed for more than just aneurysms. New advances are offering options for certain heart and lung procedures, too. Dr. Tripathi says the advances make age no longer a valid objection as a sole barrier. He says patients are now evaluated on their individual situations. However, he cautions, still not everything can be corrected in a minimally invasive manner.
Elva says technology is the reason she's alive - that and a doctor willing to take a chance. Not only did Dr. Tripathi correct her aneurysm, he also recently cleared blockages in her legs, helping her to walk with much less pain.
"I'm so grateful to Dr. Tripathi," she says. "He gave me my life back."
Screening for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
This year, Medicare began offering a free, one-time screening benefit for qualifying seniors to check for the condition Elva had. Gore and Associates has launched an awareness campaign to raise awareness of this benefit and the condition itself. Visit their site at www.ultimatesaaave.com.