SCRANTON — At 100 years old, Angeline “JuJu” Vergnetti says she feels great.
She jokes with photographers and reporters as they pile into her living room.
“I don’t need this you know,” she laughs as she motions to her walker. “Just give me an arm and I can leave this here.”
Retired from Wings Cafe at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport, a job she worked until she was 97, Vergnetti maintains an active lifestyle at home, taking care of cooking, cleaning and other household chores.
While she is feeling her lively self now, she recently had a heart procedure, transcatheter aortic valve replacement, which is a minimally invasive procedure for patients who are unable to undergo traditional, open-heart surgery. She is the third oldest patient to undergo this new procedure.
Vergnetii said up until she needed to get a valve replacement, she had felt like her normal self. Then, one morning, she said she felt “different.”
“All of a sudden, I couldn’t breathe,” she said. “I never felt this way before.”
She was with her son-in-law, and he noticed her legs were swollen, so the next day she called the doctor, who told her to go to the emergency room immediately. That morning, she collapsed while getting ready to go to the hospital.
Luckily, she said, she had LifeAlert and was transported by ambulance to the hospital, where she found out she needed a valve replacement.
Vergnetti wasn’t able to undergo open-heart surgery, but qualified for TAVR.
On Jan. 16, she underwent the procedure at Regional Hospital in Scranton. Dr. Nishant Sethi, interventional cardiologist, known as “Dr. Sexy” to Vergnetti, handled her procedure.
“I’d recommend him to anybody, Dr. Sexy,” she said.
Dr. Steven Marra, cardiothoracic surgeon with Commonwealth Health at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, said the new technology is great for patients.
Commonwealth started offering TAVR in December 2016, with the first procedure occurring in Scranton. Through this procedure, interventional cardiologists replace a diseased aortic valve through a device that is typically inserted via an artery in the leg and then guided through the arteries in the heart.
“It’s a wonderful thing Commonwealth did,” Marra said.
He said the technology affords patients who are ineligible for open-heart surgery another option without having to travel out of the area for care.
In addition, he said, the recovery time is less taxing on patients. Traditionally, someone who goes through open-heart surgery won’t be back to full activity for up to three months. With TAVR, recovery is much quicker.
Vergnetti said she’s already back to her normal self.
“I really feel great,” she said. “Good as new.”