Heart surgeries connect Bismarck couple married 60+ years

Both Vern & Claudia Krebs have had procedures with same Sanford doctor

Heart surgeries connect Bismarck couple married 60+ years

Vernon and Claudia Krebs of Bismarck, North Dakota, love to fish.

“Those were caught on Hazelton,” said Vern showing off the mounted fish on their living room wall.

“There’s my whopper walleye up there. And my whopper bass up there. He’s got a whopper walleye, but it didn’t get stuffed. But mine did,” said Claudia with a laugh.

The two have netted countless memories over the course of their lives together. They’ve been married 64 years, have three children, six grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren.

They also share a bit of health history as well. Both Vern and Claudia have atrial fibrillation, or AFib, and both have had heart surgery at Sanford Health in Bismarck.

Claudia’s procedure

“I had a heart attack back in ’81,” said Claudia, age 83. “And I’ve had two mini strokes.”

Because of her health history, Claudia has been seeing Nayan Desai, M.D., an interventional cardiologist at Sanford Bismarck, for about four years. Due to other health issues, Claudia could no longer take blood thinners, putting her at greater risk of another stroke. So Dr. Desai recommended putting in a device in her heart, called a Watchman, to alleviate those potential issues.

“When you have AFib, the upper chamber of the heart is beating irregularly and blood clots can go to the brain and cause a stroke or mini stroke,” said Dr. Desai. “So what the filter or the Watchman does is, we kind of put that in the back of the pouch where the blood clots come from and their own skin of the heart grows over it, and it prevents more clots from going to the brain.

“At about three months or so (after surgery), her blood counts got better, her Watchman was working great, she was not bleeding, and things started to get much better.”

Vernon’s procedure

Vern was up next. Along with his AFib, he also had blockages in the arteries of his neck, legs and abdomen, as well as valve issues in his heart.

“With a TAVR procedure (transcatheter aortic valve replacement), we go in the artery, up and around the heart across that aortic valve which is either narrow or leaky in some cases, and then put the new valve in, which is made of cow or pig heart tissue. Then that new valve sits in and starts to work,” said Dr. Desai.

Now Vern, who just turned 90, is no longer in congestive heart failure. He’s also able to walk better with good blood flow in his legs, and he has a good working valve in his heart as well.

Happily ever after

In sickness and in health, Vern and Claudia Krebs have worked as a team for more than six decades. And when it came time to have these heart procedures, they talked each one through as a couple as well.

“We had to make the decision together,” said Claudia. “I guess that’s the way it should be.”

They sit now in their living room, sharing fish stories together. Side-by-side with their greatest catch. Each other.

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Posted In Bismarck, Brain & Spine, Heart, Vascular