Eunice Wunderlich, from Velva, N.D., feels great after undergoing transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR.

Heart patient gets new chance at life

December 2, 2019

This holiday season, 86-year-old Eunice Wunderlich and her family are celebrating a new chance at life.

This time last year, Eunice struggled walking down the block from her home in Velva, N.D. She was so out of breath, she couldn’t wait to get back inside and take a break.

A significant blockage in Eunice’s aortic valve caused her shortness of breath, but given her age and advanced heart disease, open-heart surgery to remove the blockage was a dangerous option.

Eunice’s Sanford Bismarck doctors suggested a less invasive alternative — transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR.

“We knew there would be so many complications with the other way of doing open-heart surgery,” said Wunderlich’s daughter Joan Hansen. “So when we found out that my mom did qualify for the TAVR method, it was like winning the lottery.”

During TAVR, a catheter is inserted into a patient’s leg and from there is guided gently to the heart. A collapsible replacement aortic heart valve is then inserted into the catheter, moved up to the heart and opened up, providing the heart with the improved oxygen and blood flow it needs.

Sanford Bismarck is the first in the region to offer the TAVR procedure. Thanks to this pioneering surgery, Eunice’s family now sees a different woman, one who looks and acts 10 years younger.

“To see her energy level, it’s just a 180 from who she was,” Hansen said. “That was the whole purpose of this, to give her a better quality of life.”


A Heart for the Future

In October, Sanford Bismarck unveiled plans to build a new state-of-the-art heart hospital. As part of this exciting announcement, the Sanford Health Foundation launched A Heart for the Future, a fundraising campaign to expand patient care and services within existing facilities and the new heart hospital.

Donor support will help care for more hearts close to home by:

  • Bringing all heart services under one roof.
  • Continuing to grow our team of expert caregivers.
  • Investing in the next generation of heart and vascular medicine.

In the spirit of the holidays, please consider a gift to help more men, women and grandmas like Eunice at