Medical procedure only offered in 10% of hospitals, saves lives in Bay County

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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - While visiting Panama City Beach for Thanksgiving, Larry Foster collapsed.

"I was here in Florida, Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and I collapsed at Pier Park," Foster said.

He was taken to Bay Medical Sacred Heart, where officials found he was born with a heart condition.

"I was born and did not know it, with what they call a bicuspid aortic valve. My valve only had two leaflets instead of the normal three and instead of being round, it was rectangular and mine had almost completely shut off. It was less than one-percent open," Foster said.

After running tests, officials say Foster was not a candidate for open heart surgery.

"There's no way he could survive open heart surgery," Interventional Cardiologist Dr. Amir Haghighat said.

That's when doctors opted for the TAVR [Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement] procedure.

"With the TAVR program, they don't have to undergo a cracked-chest, so it's a much less invasive way of getting the same benefit of getting a new valve in the aorta," Dr. Haghighat said.

This made Foster the 41st person to undergo the procedure in Bay County.

"After the procedure was done, they took me up to the room, that was on a Wednesday. Saturday morning, I went back home and Sunday, the day after I went home, I was back over at Pier Park to see Santa Claus with my granddaughter," Foster said.

More than 50 TAVR procedures have been performed at Bay Medical since they began offering the program a year ago.

On Wednesday, hospital staff invited TAVR patients and their families back, to celebrate life.

"It's a true blessing and a gift from God," Foster said.