Howard Rotter can now catch his breath. The 90-year-old is back at home in Clearwater, keeping busy turning bowls in his shop and enjoying time with family, including his wife of 73 years, Fae. That’s right, 73 years.

“She’s put up with me all that time, so that’s pretty good,” Howard joked just hours after his transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) procedure at Providence St. Peter Hospital on July 11. It was the 100th TAVR performed at St. Peter since the program began a year ago.

TAVR is a game-changer for many patients who, in the past, would have needed open-heart surgery. TAVR involves catheter-based placement of a self-expandable or balloon-expandable aortic valve, normally threaded through the groin. The procedure typically takes less than two hours and the patient usually returns home the next day, compared to open-heart surgery, where the patient is normally hospitalized for five days and recovering for six to eight weeks.

“Open-heart is still optimal for a younger patient, or where we need to work on multiple arteries,” said Michael Eveland, ARNP, Providence Cardiology Associates. “But if the surgeon identifies someone as a candidate for TAVR, the procedure and recovery time are much quicker.”

Earlier this year, Howard just wasn’t feeling himself. He’d lose his breath simply walking to his shop, about 200 feet from his home. He is a five-time cancer survivor who has already had heart bypass surgery twice. “I’d like to think I do my part to keep the medical industry going,” he said.

Because of his advanced age and his previous history he was an excellent TAVR candidate.

“With the previous surgeries and his age, recovery from open-heart could have been difficult,” Eveland said.

 “Now I feel like I can run over to the shop,” Howard said the morning after the procedure. “I’m ready to get home and get ready for the reunion.” Traditionally at the end of each July, the Rotter family has a reunion on son Dale’s property, which borders Howard’s. He and Fae have three children (Dale and sisters, Nikki and Shoni). Usually, about 60-70 people show up from all over the country.

“It’s fun for us old dogs,” Howard said. “Too many grandkids to count—greats and even a few great-great grandchildren.” Dale helped with the math. There are five grandchildren, 10 great grandchildren and seven great-great grandchildren. The oldest great-great is 12, so there are a few years to wait until any great-great-greats. “But it’s not out of the question,” Howard said.

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