Teen’s Lifesaving TAVR Gives Family a Special Holiday Gift

November 22, 2017 6:00 AM

A 16-year-old became the youngest patient at Michigan Medicine to have his aortic valve replaced using a transcatheter procedure. One year later, he’s thriving.

John-Daniel Johnson is “as happy as can be.”

That description by his father, Bill, came before the teen’s most recent checkup one year after the 16-year-old became the youngest Michigan Medicine patient to undergo a transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR, due to a leaky aortic valve.

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TAVR is a minimally invasive, catheter-based procedure used to replace the heart’s aortic valve.

The North Carolina teen traveled with his family to the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center in late October, where doctors examined John-Daniel and gave him a “great report,” according to his father.

“J.D. has gained weight and height, which was exciting news for all of us,” Bill says.

But the good news didn’t come as a surprise to John-Daniel, now 17, whose positive outlook has never wavered. “He never thought things would be anything but fine,” his father adds.

A special patient

John-Daniel is no stranger to U-M.

He was born nine weeks premature and missing two left heart chambers. The infant underwent many surgeries in Ann Arbor and went on to live an active life alongside his twin sister, Danielle.

SEE ALSO: 5 Years Later, ‘Life is Good’ for one of Michigan’s First TAVR Patients

But when health issues developed more than a year ago, John-Daniel returned to Michigan Medicine, where a leaky aortic valve was discovered. Doctors considered a heart transplant until they explored replacing the valve using the TAVR procedure.

Although John-Daniel was not a typical candidate for TAVR, which is traditionally performed in patients with severe aortic stenosis, doctors were confident it could be done successfully.

And they were right.

Bill Johnson; Michigan Medicine’s Mary Jo Boyle, N.P.; and Lisa, Danielle and John-Daniel Johnson enjoy a Wolverine hockey game.

Healthful holidays

During their recent time on Wolverine turf, the Johnson family attended a U-M hockey game (where Danielle sang the national anthem) and a U-M football game.

The family is now home in North Carolina, taking with them memories of a great weekend and hope for continuing good health for John-Daniel and giving extra thanks this holiday season.

“J.D. has an inner peace about all that he’s experienced,” says Bill. “That’s part of the gift he brings to us. He has always just known that things would be OK.”

Photos by Leisa Thompson