Iva's Story

Heart & Vascular Care
“I had a wonderful experience in St. Cloud. The team was so organized. My whole stay was great — it was like a vacation.”

Iva Lowe, 95, of Watertown, S.D., says her life has been a great adventure in spite of health setbacks.

At a young age, Iva was stricken with scarlet and rheumatic fever, which often left her on bedrest; she missed an entire school year when she was 10. Her mother home schooled her that year and her brother’s friend, Donnie, would sit with her to pass time and cheer her up.

“I have been sickly my whole life,” Iva said. “In some ways, I consider it a blessing because I grew from it, and it made me stronger. When I have adversity, I buck it and I don't give into it."

Iva and Donnie

Iva married Donnie, the love of her life, in 1944. Together they bought a farm and raised five children. They did encounter hardships, including several miscarriages.

“After my first baby, a nurse told me I shouldn’t have any more children, but I showed her,” Iva said. Later, a daughter came down with polio and another daughter was in a serious car accident, which resulted in broken bones and a head injury. “She was in a coma for nine days. The Lord helped me get through it and I found a way to endure,” Iva stated. Fortunately, both daughters recovered.

When Donnie died in 2003, Iva thought the world had come to an end. “It didn’t, so I found things to do,” she said. Iva ministered to prisoners at a local correctional facility. She taught an acquaintance to read. She cared for someone with a drug addiction. She continued to exercise 45-minutes a day. She cheers people up at her assisted living facility and spends time with her 15 grandchildren, 26 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.

IvaAt age 93, Iva had a heart attack and learned she had aortic stenosis. Aortic stenosis occurs when the heart’s aortic valve narrows due to a build-up of calcium. Iva’s doctor in Watertown, Interventional Cardiologist Evelio Garcia, MD, told her if it wasn’t fixed, she would have less than a year to live. Iva said, “As Dr. Garcia listed places to have the procedure, I interrupted him and said, ‘I want to go to St. Cloud Hospital.’ Without missing a beat, he chuckled and told me ‘good choice.’”

In St. Cloud, Iva met Interventional Cardiologist Thom Dahle, MD, director of the Valvular Heart Disease Program at the CentraCare Heart & Vascular Center (CCHVC), who explained that she would need a transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR). The procedure gives a patient a new heart valve that can more fully open and close to bring oxygen-rich blood from the lungs to the brain and the rest of the body.

“Working and partnering with highly-skilled referring physicians, like Dr. Garcia, we are able to complete a lot of the evaluation locally to limit the amount of travel for patients to St. Cloud to a single day,” said Dr. Dahle.

St. Cloud Hospital has been performing TAVR since 2013. The program has grown rapidly, completing hundreds of procedures each year. Most patients are under conscious sedation, meaning they are awake, but sleepy, and no breathing tube or general anesthesia is needed. Doing so can improve outcomes and shorten hospital stays.

Iva recovered quickly after the procedure and was back home within a few days. “I had a wonderful experience in St. Cloud. The team was so organized. My whole stay was great — it was like a vacation.” Since then, Iva has thrown herself back into life with gusto, including playing bridge, knitting and shooting pool. “I’m the only woman in my facility that plays pool, but that’s OK — the men I play with are all gentlemen,” she said.

“Iva has such a great outlook on life,” said Sara Dezell, APRN/CNS, CCHVC Valve Clinic Coordinator. “She used her TAVR experience to look at life in a new way. Recovery after this procedure isn’t very long, and shortly after her procedure, she seized the chance to continue to try new things and pick up new hobbies.”

Iva paintingIn fact, Iva recently started to take painting lessons, and it’s her passion now, especially outdoor scenes and birds. Her goal is to create a painting for all 44 of her grandchildren. “I like painting with acrylics,” Iva said. “If you make a mistake, you can cover it up with white paint. And the more you do it, the more you learn how to mix colors and spread it. It's a challenge but I love it.”

In painting as in life, Iva says challenges makes you stronger. “I had a hard life, but a wonderful life. I enjoyed everything I did. You have to have faith, turn everything over to the Lord and not worry.”