Howard Rotter can now catch his breath. The 90-year-old is back at home in Clearwater, keeping busy turning bowls in his shop and enjoying time with family, including his wife of 73 years, Fae. That’s right, 73 years.

Providence Row of providers
Technicians Aaron Gensler and Liana Salvatierra, and Drs. Jimmy Swan, Gopal Ghimire, Nicole Jackson. Liana and Dr. Swan are hold a catheter-deployment device with the wire that will go into the patient’s leg, critical to this less invasive treatment. Photo courtesy: Providence Medical Group

“She’s put up with me all that time, so that’s pretty good,” Howard joked just hours after his transcateheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) procedure at Providence St. Peter Hospital on July 11. It was the 100th performed at St. Peter since the program began a year ago.

TAVR is a game-changer for many patients who in the past needed open-heart surgery. TAVR involves catheter-based placement of a self-expandable or balloon-expandable aortic valve normally through the groin. The procedure normally takes less than two hours and the patient usually returns home the next day; compared to open-heart surgery where the patient is typically hospitalized for five days and recovery is 6-8 weeks.

“Open-heart is still optimal for a younger patient, or where the patient is at low risk for open-heart surgery,” said Michael Eveland, ARNP at Providence Cardiology Associates. “But if the surgeon identifies someone as a candidate for TAVR, the procedure and recovery time are much quicker.”

Earlier this year Howard just wasn’t feeling himself. He’d lose his breath simply walking to his shop, about 200 feet from his home. He is a five-time cancer survivor who has had already heart bypass surgery twice. “I’d like to think I do my part to keep the medical industry going,” he said.

Because of his advanced age and his previous history he was an excellent TAVR candidate.

“With the previous surgeries and his age, recovery from open-heart could have been difficult,” Eveland said.

Providence Howard and nurse Jaime Erikson
Providence St. Peter Nurse Jamie Erickson chats with Howard Rotter following his procedure. Photo courtesy: Providence Medical Group

“Now I feel like I can run over to the shop,” Howard said the morning after the procedure. “I’m ready to get home and get ready for the reunion.” Traditionally at the end of each July, the Rotter family has a reunion on son Dale’s property, which borders Howard’s. He and Fae have three children (Dale and sisters, Nikki and Shoni). Usually, about 60-70 people show up from all over the country.

“It’s fun for us old dogs,” Howard said. “Too many grandkids to count. … Greats and even a few great-great grandchildren.” Dale helped with the math. There are five grandchildren, 10 great grandchildren and seven great-great grandchildren. The oldest great-great is 12, so there are a few years to wait until any great-great-greats. “But it’s not out of the question,” Howard said.

TAVR Helps Active Man Keep Moving

Howard Rotter was born on Dec. 25, 1928, in Alder, Wash. Alder Lake, formed when the Nisqually Dam was constructed, covers most of the area now, but Rotter Road still leads to part of the original family homestead which is near Elbe. He had eight brothers and two sisters.

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Drs. Jimmy Swan, Gopal Ghimire, Nicole Jackson prepare for the 100th TAVR procedure. Photo courtesy: Providence Medical Group

Howard lived in Alder until 1943. “Everyone had work around the ranch, so you kept busy,” he said. “But things were different in those days. Everything was free range, so if you wanted to go, you went, because you had walk everywhere. There we no phones, and driving even 40-50 miles was a big thing. My grandpa never even learned to drive. He just rode his horse.”

As a young man, Howard enjoyed animals. He worked with horses and even rode bulls in the rodeo. Throughout his life, Howard worked in the woods. He owned his own logging company for a while and was also superintendent of Morrison Logging in Aberdeen. Like many, he lived to serve. He served three terms on the school board, was a volunteer fireman and served 20 years as a fire commissioner. He was also a licensed pilot.

Now out of the hospital following this TAVR procedure, Howard says the secret to a successful 73-year marriage and 90-plus year life is simple.

90-year-old Howard Rotter is flanked by ARNP Mike Eveland and surgeon Gopal Ghimire as Rotter prepares to go home the morning after his TAVR procedure at Providence St. Peter Hospital. Photo courtesy: Providence Medical Group

“Eat lots of onions,” he says with a smirk. “I like onions and celery and the such. But seriously, I think it’s important to just keep going. I have trouble waiting … you know, I just always want to be going, working.”

That’s why it was so important for him to have the breath and energy to enjoy his shop, where he turns the wood bowls and builds other things. “Gotta have something to entertain the head,” he said.

And after being the 100th TAVR patient at Providence St. Peter, he’ll especially enjoy this year’s reunion.

For more information about the TAVR program, please contact Providence Cardiology Associates at 360-493-5286.

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Members of the Providence St. Peter Hospital TAVR team pose before the 100th procedure July 11. Photo courtesy: Providence Medical Group

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