Denton Man Catches Aorta Block in Unlikely Way

NBCUniversal, Inc.

A diagnosis of aortic valve stenosis can be a death sentence for some.  It's when the aorta of the heart is blocked.

A Denton man caught the condition just in time and in an unlikely way.

Jarrell Clark has a big heart to match his big personality, but the hospital volunteer, who goes by the nickname Gator, says his bigger stature began to a toll on him.

He decided to pursue gastric bypass surgery, but during his pre-surgery heart screenings, doctors discovered a big problem.  The main valve of his heart, was blocked.

"I said, 'what are my options?' She said, 'surgery or leave it alone and in two years, it will take care of itself.' I knew what she meant," said Clark.

He went to Baylor Scott & White The Heart Hospital - Denton.

"Gator thought he had poor exercise because of his weight.  Gator's big problem was his aortic valve," said Dr. Gary Fazio, cardiologist with the Heart Hospital.

Instead of open heart surgery, doctors performed a transcatheter aortic valve replacement.  This minimally invasive surgical procedure repairs the valve without removing the old, damaged valve. Instead, it wedges a replacement valve into the aortic valve's place using a transcatheter through the leg.

It's an option for at risk patients.

"People would die from this disease and, at this point, we can take folks much more elderly, frail or with other challenges that preclude the ability of doing the open chest procedure," said Dr. Fazio.

"After the surgery, I wasn't as tired and when I'm not as tired, I am ready to do things and that's what I did," said Clark.

He felt so well that he became scuba certified, traveling around the world for experiences he never thought possible.

He's even lost 15 pounds and postponed his gastric bypass surgery.

Now, as a volunteer, he shares his story with other heart patients.

"Heart surgery ends one phase of life and begins a new phase and what you do with that phase is your decision."

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