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Excela Answers Retired Police Officer’s Call for Backup For Ailing Heart

Excela Answers Retired Police Officer’s Call for Backup For Ailing Heart

Vernon Wechtenhiser loved his beat as a Latrobe police officer, and would have remained on duty until he reached retirement naturally. His first bypass surgery came at age 49. With the likelihood of continued stress on his heart, he accepted early retirement and instead headed to the woods and streams to pursue his hunting and fishing hobby. While his mind found calm in the outdoors, his heart was still unsettled. It withstood another bypass and five separate ablations before his atrial fibrillation ceased.

And each time over the past 30 years that he and his family made the trip to a Pittsburgh hospital, he was grateful for the care, but he longed for the day when his heart health could not only be monitored, but treated, locally. That day finally came for the 80-year-old Unity Township resident, who was the first recipient of a transcatheter aortic valve replacement at Excela Health. Wechtenhiser learned from his Excela Health cardiologist about TAVR, a procedure that just became available in Westmoreland County this February.

Wechtenhiser had been advised in recent years that he would one day be a candidate for valve replacement. The severity of the narrowing of his aortic valve became more obvious over the past year, as he grew short of breath with even the slightest exertion, and as soon as Excela Health was again scheduling elective procedures, Wechtenhiser was ready.

In less than an hour, the valve was replaced, and within 24 hours he was headed home – just 15 minutes away from the hospital. In the days leading up to his two-week post-procedure follow-up, he had resumed many of the familiar activities that he had stopped when they became more difficult, and he is showing other signs of improved overall health such as reduced swelling in his ankles.

Wechtenhiser and wife Elizabeth couldn’t be more enthusiastic about the outcome. Their strong faith and their confidence in the doctors and services of Excela Health have finally steadied the beat.