Local coach has aortic valve repaired.
A new procedure to repair the aortic valve in the heart has been done for the first time in Florida, and the patient was longtime local football coach Rocky Yocam, of Port Orange, who decided to have it done on Dec. 12, his 68th birthday.
Yocam had a total of 43 years in his teaching and coaching career before retiring three years ago. He was at Seabreeze High School from 1982 to 1997, which was followed by a three-year stint at Spruce Creek High School and a couple of years at Atlantic High School. He coached at New Smyrna Beach from 2007 to 2009 and also coached golf at times.
Last summer, Yocam visited his doctor.
“I didn’t have any symptoms, no shortness of breath or exhaustion, but I was concerned about my high blood pressure,” he said.
Cardiologist Dr. Humayun Jamidar determined his aortic valve was only pushing about 75-85% of blood through with each pump of the heart, and referred him to Dr. John Holt, a cardio, thoracic, vascular surgeon at Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center in Daytona Beach.
Dr. Holt said Yocam looked like a good candidate for the new procedure invented by Dr. Scott Rankin, a professor of surgery at West Virginia University. Rather than replace the aortic valve, a ring, called a HAART 300 Aortic Annuloplasty Device, is installed to support the valve opening.
Holt had known Rankin for a long time, and both doctors were passionate about repairing valves when possible.
“In the past, I would take out a valve and see that it looked normal,” Holt said. “I thought, ‘Why can’t it be repaired?'”
He said valves made from tissue have a limited lifespan and mechanical valves require the patient to take an anticoagulant drug for the rest of their lives.
“It’s always better if you can save a person’s tissues,” Holt said.
Repairs have been done in the past, but the method was long and complicated.
Rankin had completed 170 procedures in Europe and received permission from the FDA to perform in the U.S. a few months ago. He had done 30 in the U.2.S., but none in Florida.
‘I ENJOY THIS FIELD SO MUCH’
If a valve opens too far, the leaflets can’t close, so it works inefficiently and the heart must work harder. The ring invented by Rankin keeps the valve opening smaller, so the leaflets can close.
In most cases, Holt said, the valve must be replaced because of damage done by calcium buildup. An echocardiogram can determine if a valve is in good shape or not.
“It’s a minority of patients who have a valve that can be fixed,” Holt said. “But there’s a good number out there.”
If, during surgery, the valve does not look repairable, Holt said he will replace it with a mechanical valve.
Holt, who has been at Florida Hospital since 1992, said it’s important to stay up to date in medicine.
“That’s what great about what we do,” he said. “I’ve been doing this a long time and I’m still learning. I enjoy this field so much. You get to help people.”
‘I FEEL REALLY WELL’
Yocam said his dad was a doctor in Oklahoma, and he was aware that new medical techniques come out every year.
“It’s always better if you can save a person’s tissues.”
DR. JOHN HOLT, cardio, thoracic, vascular surgeon
“When I met Dr. Holt, it was quite easy to put my confidence in him,” he said.
He has completed his second week of cardio rehab. He still has dizziness when standing up, but that could be related to the blood pressure medications, he said. His blood pressure is in the low/normal range.
“I feel really well,” he said.
Yocam looks forward to many years of retirement and has great memories of his coaching career.
“I loved all the young men I got to be associated with,” he said. “It was just a pleasure, seeing young men grow up and go on to do great things.”