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At 86, very little keeps Jeanne Smith down for long, including heart disease.

In 2012, doctors found blood clots in the Cortez, Colo. resident’s lungs, and she later developed pneumonia. After months of routine checkups and lung X-rays, she was sent to an oncologist in Durango, Colo., who discovered a nodule in her heart via PET scans. Though the nodule remained the same for nine months, Smith’s internist decided more aggressive treatment was needed. Unfortunately, she was not a good candidate for heart surgery, due to her poor lung function. “It’s no good to fix the heart if your lungs are just going to give out,” Smith said. She was eventually sent to Colorado Springs after she was also diagnosed with atrial fibrillation.

On August 22, Smith received a transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) at Penrose Hospital in Colorado Springs. Penrose-St. Francis is part of the Centura Health Heart and Vascular Network, the region’s leading provider of cardiovascular care.

“I was quite surprised at the scope of this operation,” Smith said. “I just had no idea how significant it was going in, but there were about 22 people in that room: six or eight experts and all their staff. They took amazing care of me; it all went very smoothly. I was euphoric for the first 10 days after the surgery. I had no pain and I could breathe.”

She was up and walking the next day and later attended cardiac rehabilitation sessions. Though recovery took about a month longer than she had expected, she was back to enjoying her routine in Cortez after just five months of rest and rehab. “Now, I’m out in the yard, I feel good, I’m cooking and taking care of myself,” she said.

Smith credits the John Zay Guest House, located adjacent to Penrose Hospital; her good friend Jana Wright, who traveled with her to Colorado Springs and cared for her for 10 weeks after her TAVR operation; and Penrose-St. Francis with her health and recovery.

“That facility is more like a luxurious hotel, it was outstanding!” she said. “They are so kind and thoughtful there, I couldn’t have asked for better help.”

She is looking forward to continuing her active lifestyle – both physically and mentally. “I like to read biographies and mysteries, really just good stories,” Smith said. “I’m also addicted to Sudoku; I’ve got to do at least one each day.”

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Pikes Peak Newspapers, Editor

Hannah Blick has lived in the Pikes Peak region for six years. She studied journalism at Kansas State University and enjoys biking, skiing and hiking in the Rockies.

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