TAVR Gave Me My Life Back


Earnest Tate

Was this helpful? (178)
Earnest Tate

Earnest Tate lives in Selma, Alabama with his wife, Norma Jean.

In 2002, I retired as the first black police chief of Selma, Alabama. I wanted to spend my days at my farm, caring for my cows and baling hay. But a few years ago, I started noticing I just didn’t feel right. I felt tired all the time—people commented on how slow I was walking and how pale I looked. I’d walk a piece and then have to take a break to catch my breath. And I got to the point where I couldn’t eat anything—my wife, Norma Jean, would make me dinner but I’d push it away.

So I was losing weight—my clothes had gotten too big for me. And I couldn’t sleep in my bed—I’d get short of breath lying down. I’d have to leave the bedroom and go sit up in a chair in the den to sleep. I was so sick. I was getting weaker and weaker. It wasn’t a way to live.

My wife is a retired nurse, and she knew something was wrong. She tried to hide her concern, but when you’ve been married as long as we have, you can’t hide anything. I finally went to my doctor, who referred me to his heart doctor. And he said I definitely had a problem, and then referred me to cardiologists at the University of Alabama in Birmingham.

The doctors told me that I had a condition called aortic stenosis; they said that my aortic valve was very narrow. They thought I was too weak to have open-heart surgery, and I agreed with them. So they scheduled me for transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) instead. They said they would thread a valve through a catheter in my thigh to replace the valve in my heart. And I said, let’s do it.

I never got scared—I knew, as sick as I was, that something needed to happen. I knew I wasn’t going to live long if I stayed the way I was. They had to do something to keep me on this earth, and I was ready to do anything they told me, or else I was going to have to plan my own funeral.

After the TAVR procedure, I didn’t really feel any pain. They offered me pain medicine, but I still haven’t taken any to this day. My wife, two sons, and my niece were all with me to support me. I was in the ICU the night after the procedure, and in the morning, the doctor came in to check on me. He said, “I can’t believe you’re sitting up and smiling at me, as sick as you were yesterday!” I told him, “I don’t know what y’all did, but whatever it is, it’s working.”

I was in the hospital for three days and I was glad to get home. I went back to the doctor a few weeks later and he did some tests and then told me that everything looked good, and I needed to come back to see him in a year. A year hasn’t passed since my surgery, but I did go up a couple months ago to have lunch with my doctor and other staff members. I wanted to show him how great I’m doing.

I’m blessed. I’m blessed to be on this earth. And I tell everyone to go see the doctor if you’re not feeling right. I tell them to go get checked! Because if it hadn’t been for the doctor, I’d be gone. But instead, I’m here on this earth with my wife, kids and grandchildren, and I love to be on my farm, baling hay and tending to my cows.

Earnest Tate is 80 years old and lives in Selma, Alabama with his wife of 54 years, Norma Jean.

THIS CONTENT DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. This content is provided for informational purposes and reflects the opinions of the author. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional regarding your health. If you think you may have a medical emergency, contact your doctor immediately or call 911.

SPONSORED serious-senior-man-looking-out-window

TAVR: What You Need to Know

Learn if the latest aortic valve replacement option is right for you.

Healthgrades logo

Get the FREE "Your Guide to TAVR" email series. You will receive six emails with EXCLUSIVE content to help you better understand how TAVR can treat Aortic Stenosis.

By clicking "Get Started" I agree to Healthgrade's privacy policy and user agreement.
Was this helpful? (178)

© 2018 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

View Sources

Medical References

Your opinion matters!

Please fill out this short, 1-3 minute survey about Advances in Aortic Stenosis. Your answers are anonymous and will not be linked to you personally.

The survey will appear at the end of your visit.

Thank you!

A survey will be presented to you after you finish viewing our Advances in Aortic Stenosis content.

Need a 5-Star Doctor for Aortic Stenosis?

You Might Also Like


8 Foods for Heart Health After TAVR

After TAVR, it’s especially important to focus on heart-healthy eating.
SPONSORED couple-embracing-on-dock

Aortic Valve Replacement Options

Learn about TAVR: A less invasive alternative to open heart surgery.

Share via Email