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A Pair of "Firsts" for the Temple Heart & Vascular Institute

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Posted by Temple Heart & Vascular Institute

Robert Wilson (sitting) and Dr. Grayson Wheatley

Robert Wilson (sitting) and Dr. Grayson Wheatley

Seventy-one-year-old Robert Wilson has lived a very active life, serving in the Air Force during the Vietnam War and Cuban missile crisis, building yachts for the Trojan Boat Company for 28 years, and helping to raise six children. He and his wife Joan live in Kenhorst, PA, outside of Reading, and they love to go on cruises.

That active lifestyle came to an abrupt halt in 2006. "Two days before we were supposed to leave for the Virgin Islands, I started having trouble breathing," said Wilson. It turned out he had atrial fibrillation and an abdominal aortic aneurysm. He had both repaired, but just a few years later, doctors discovered a thoracic aortic aneurysm. "It's like living with a time bomb," he added. "You try not to over-exert yourself because you're always aware you have a weak spot in there and you're frequently tired."

Fortunately, he was referred to Grayson H. Wheatley, III, MD, FACS, Director of Aortic & Endovascular Surgery at Temple University Hospital. Dr. Wheatley repaired Wilson's aneurysm using a minimally-invasive, endovascular approach – which entails delivering a stent to the aneurysm using a catheter instead of open surgery. Wilson was also the first patient at Temple and the first in Pennsylvania to receive the Heli-FX™ Thoracic EndoAnchor System, which uses a special "anchor" technology to secure stents to the wall of the aorta.

"This is a fantastic clinical advance because it addresses stent migration and endoleaks, the two most common complications encountered during and after thoracic endovascular aortic aneurysm repair," explained Dr. Wheatley. Wilson was able to go home three days after surgery.

Harry Farnack and his wife Sandra

Harry Farnack and his wife Sandra

Heavy Lifting Halted

Like Wilson, Harry Farnack is also in his 70s. "I have done pretty much everything [in my career]…roofing, siding, concrete work, brick work…you name it," said Farnack. Several years ago, he, too, was diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurysm by his doctor near his home in Nazareth, PA. "The aneurysm didn't bother me, but my doctor told me not to lift anything over 40 pounds, which was a challenge at my job," said Farnack. He says his doctor monitored the aneurysm – but, when it continued to grow, he referred him to Dr. Wheatley.

Farnack's case was complicated due to the curves in his aorta, which made him a candidate for the Aorfix™ Endovascular Stent Graft. The stent's flexible design allows it to navigate highly angled aortic vessel contours. Temple was the first hospital in Philadelphia to offer the Aorfix, and Farnack became one of the first patients who Dr. Wheatley treated with the device. He was able to go home the day after the surgery.

Taking Back Their Lives

Today, both Wilson and Farnack are feeling great and ready to get back to what they love to do. Wilson hopes to take a cruise with his wife again soon. Meanwhile, Farnack is looking forward to working on his small farm and spending time with his wife and their four chihuahuas. They're both happy they ended up under the care of Dr. Wheatley…and Temple.

"Temple's Heart & Vascular Institute is home to a world-class healthcare team with the skills, expertise and technology necessary to treat the most complex of cardiovascular cases," said Dr. Wheatley. "We are pleased to be able to offer patients access to these minimally-invasive approaches to aortic aneurysm repair, which further establish Temple as a destination for cardiovascular care."

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