John Calpin had Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) on February 14. He went home the next day with a new heart valve and a new lease on life.
John Calpin saw something special in Joe Auteri, the quarterback of the Central Bucks East High School Patriots football team back in the late 1970s.
So he had no doubts when it came time for cardiothoracic surgeon Joseph Auteri, MD, FACS to perform an advanced heart procedure on him in February 2019.
"I was just totally relaxed and totally confident in him," said John. "He told me," I'll take good care of you,' and I believed him."
John Calpin, 77, was assistant coach of the CB East High School team in the 1970s. He then coached football at Lenape Middle School before returning to CB East as head coach from 1984 to 1986. He was a social studies teacher who taught Advanced Placement (AP) classes. "What I liked about coaching was the relationship you have with the players. You see them at their best and their worst."
Joe Auteri played quarterback for the Patriots before graduating from CB East in 1978. John coached him from his sophomore to senior year.
"He was everything you want in a player," said John, who also commended Dr. Auteri's parents for the role they played. "Joe was very, very smart and a hard worker. He had a great rapport with his teammates. He was a quiet leader. Just a great kid."
Dr. Auteri remembers Coach Calpin, the offensive coordinator, as a "very bright guy" who quoted history to the players during practice.
"He put his heart and soul into coaching," said Dr. Auteri. "He was a different breed. We all loved him."
Dr. Auteri graduated from Harvard University and went to Thomas Jefferson Medical School before completing post-graduate training at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York. He served as director of heart programs at hospitals in Arizona and Virginia, building a national reputation as a surgeon. In May 2007, Dr. Auteri returned with his family to Bucks County and was appointed medical director of Doylestown Health's Heart Institute.
The former coach said he "wasn't the least bit surprised" when he found out the starting quarterback became a doctor.
"I was glad he came back to this area," said John, who had run into Dr. Auteri a couple times before becoming his patient. "I get a great deal of satisfaction when I see kids come back and do well, knowing I might have had a very small part in it."
The heart of the matter
After retiring in 2001, John enjoyed an active lifestyle that included a lot of walking. After a few years, he started "running out of gas" going up hills. His cardiologist at the time diagnosed him with aortic stenosis.
The aorta is the main artery carrying blood out of the heart. As people age, calcium deposits may narrow the valve and it may not open properly, obstructing blood flow from the heart to the aorta and the rest of the body. Aortic stenosis generally affects older adults and may lead to heart failure. Symptoms include chest pain, fatigue and shortness of breath, lightheadedness, fainting or difficulty when exercising.
In the past, the only option for treatment was to have open-heart surgery to replace the malfunctioning valve. In 2006, John received a new aortic valve and spent five days at Doylestown Hospital. He described the weeks-long recovery as "tough."
John continued regular check-ups with a cardiologist and was doing fine until last fall when an irregular EKG in the doctor's office sent him to the Emergency Department. Tests showed the heart valve had weakened to the point it needed to be replaced.
"The valve had run its course," said Dr. Auteri, noting the life of these valves is between 12 to 15 years.
Doctors determined because of previous heart procedures and other factors, open-heart surgery to replace the valve would be too risky for John, who met the criteria for TAVR.
John was a patient at Doylestown Hospital a few times over the years and knew that was where he wanted to have his procedure. He had investigated the innovative TAVR and was "in awe of what they can do now."
What is TAVR?
Minimally-invasive Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement is an alternative to open-heart surgery that offers hope for greater quality of life for patients with aortic stenosis. The procedure is done using catheters to replace the faulty valve. Doylestown Health physicians were among the first in the region to perform TAVR in 2013, with the number of cases growing each year.
Some patients may be eligible for traditional valve replacement surgery, and Heart Institute outcomes for this type of procedure rival the best in the nation.
The Valve Clinic at Doylestown Health's Heart Institute combines the expertise of cardiologists, interventional cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons and radiologists, all working together to develop a personal treatment plan for each patient. A valve clinic coordinator collaborates with physicians to evaluate patients, coordinate tests and help arrange appointments.
"The tests and the whole process prior to the operation were very deliberate," said John. "They were very, very careful to ensure the best outcome."
Dr. Auteri was part of the team that performed John's TAVR at 7 a.m. on a Thursday. John was sitting up reading a book by 4 p.m. He left at noon the next day. "I felt no pain, no discomfort, especially compared to the last [valve replacement]."
John commended his primary care doctor, Joseph Ferrara, MD, and his cardiologist, Michael Adenaike, MD and interventional cardiologist Steven Guidera, MD.
"I couldn't have gotten better care or more conscientious care from the doctors here," he added. "My stay here was excellent. I have the highest regard for everybody who works at Doylestown Hospital."
What was it like operating on your former football coach?
"Performing a procedure on somebody you know from the past puts a little added pressure on it," said Dr. Auteri. "But we pride ourselves on the fact we offer the best care to everyone. In this case, when you take care of those who served you, you want to serve them well. I'm glad he did awesome."
John shared some words of advice for those considering the TAVR procedure: "Investigate it and consider it as a very fortuitous situation if you are a candidate."
"When you do something like this you have to have faith in the people advising you," he added. "Knowing Dr. Auteri as a kid and the person he turned out to be, I had no reservations."
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About Doylestown Health's Heart & Vascular Services
Expert cardiologists and cardiac surgeons assist patients and physicians with managing risk factors for heart disease, offer advanced treatment options and provide outstanding emergency cardiac care. Doylestown Hospital’s accredited Chest Pain Center is fully prepared to treat cardiac emergencies around the clock, focusing on rapid diagnosis and effective treatment. The multidisciplinary team at the Richard A. Reif Heart Institute is dedicated to providing the highest level of quality care and patient safety.