Eleanor Sandelier attended nursing school at Cooper Hospital (as it was called then) as a young woman, only to return to Cooper decades later as a patient.

The need for a transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) brought Sandelier back to Cooper. TAVR is a minimally invasive procedure to replace a narrowed aortic valve that does not open properly (aortic valve stenosis). This procedure can improve quality of life in patients who otherwise have limited choices for repair of the aortic valve. 

TAVR was not Sandelier’s first heart procedure, and heart disease was not her first major health issue. She first faced health problems when she was living in Florida, where she and her husband had moved to make a fresh start after experiencing a personal tragedy, including the loss of one son to ventricular failure and a second son to vehicular homicide.

When Sandelier was first living in Florida and was in her forties, she had unexplained weight loss and soon was down to 90 pounds. A spinal tap showed that she had multiple sclerosis. Later, while preparing for surgery on her hand, a pre-surgical workup led to a chemical stress test that showed a 98% blockage in her aortic valve. She underwent her first aortic valve replacement, which at that time was performed as open heart surgery.

After her husband’s passing due to cancer several years later, she returned to New Jersey to be closer to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren in Delaware.

Not long after she moved back to her home state, as she explains, “I was feeling lousy and having difficulty breathing. I felt as though my chest was in a vise. I was tired and had fluid buildup in my legs.” Tests showed that the aortic valve needed to be replaced.

Even though Sandelier was familiar with Cooper from her days in nursing school, while researching where to resume her heart care in South Jersey, she says, “I let my fingers do the walking.” She scheduled an appointment with Cooper Cardiology after reviewing the depth of the Structural Heart Program and the experience of the health care team.

Sandelier was initially hesitant to undergo TAVR because of the challenging and long recovery she experienced after heart surgery in Florida. However, Cooper cardiologist Rajesh Kabadi, MD, FACC, reassured her, and Sandelier realized that she needed to do something to feel better. She agreed to undergo a preoperative workup and was referred to interventional cardiologist Simon Topalian, MD, FACC, who would perform the TAVR procedure.

Sandelier explains, “I was in the hospital for 28 days when I had my first open heart surgery in 2008.” She continues, “Compare that with being discharged from Cooper just one day following TAVR in 2019.”

At Cooper, Sandelier was immediately put at ease by Drs. Kabadi and Topalian, and she felt supported by her nurse navigator, Tara Jones, RN.

She also credits electrophysiologist Matthew Ortman, MD, who replaced her pacemaker, for her well-being. Because she is left handed and prefers to sleep on her left side, Sandelier requested that the pacemaker be placed on her right side. Normally, pacemakers are placed on the left side, or closer to the heart. Cooper was able to accommodate her request, and she explains that this type of special attention to her unique needs is what sets the Cooper team apart.

Sandelier, who now lives in Clayton, keeps in touch with her family and friends safely during the pandemic, maintaining the recommended 6 feet of distance for in-person visits. She enjoys genealogy research, a hobby she started when she was confined to a wheelchair after her initial diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. She is also a member of local historical societies.

Researching the past brings Sandelier joy as much as living in the present, and she thanks her Cooper cardiology team for making her new life possible.