On Christmas Eve of 2019, Charles Falkler assumed the indigestion he was experiencing was due to the rich holiday foods and treats he’d been enjoying. But after taking antacids throughout Christmas Day without getting any relief, his wife Vickie insisted they go to the hospital the next day.
It was a decision that literally saved Charles’ life.
It turns out that the indigestion that Charles was experiencing was actually angina, or heart pain, a symptom of reduced blood flow to his heart. An emergency angiogram revealed that Charles was in the midst of critical heart failure and cardiogenic shock, with his heart pumping at about 10 percent of its normal function.
All of his major coronary arteries were nearly entirely blocked. Charles was deemed too high risk for open heart surgery, so consideration was given to heart transplantation or a mechanical artificial heart. Ultimately, the Virginia Heart and Inova Fairfax teams opted to pursue non-surgical coronary intervention with high-risk angioplasty and stenting instead.
Dr. Alexander G. Truesdell and Virginia Heart’s structural heart specialist, Dr. Nadim A. Geloo, were successful in correcting Charles’ multiple blockages, but given the severity of his condition, the procedure required the use of a temporary heart pump to continue to circulate his blood during the complex procedure and for two days afterwards.
Charles would end up spending three weeks in the hospital. Upon discharge, his care was transitioned to Virginia Heart’s Advanced Heart Failure Specialist, Dr. Timothy S. Welch, who has monitored his heart function and managed his medications to ensure a full and successful recovery.
“We cannot say enough about the doctors and the support we have been given,” Vickie, Charles’ wife said. “It has been just amazing.”
But Charles has done his part, too. He has lost 50 pounds and is exercising 80 minutes every day on his stationary bike and by walking. He’s determined to make this year’s holiday less stressful and more joyful for everyone, including their children and grandchildren who are self-quarantining so they can celebrate together with Charles and Vickie. “This year, we’re going to have a fantastic Christmas,” Vickie said.