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Local Doctor Creates Life-Saving Tool

November 20, 2012, 6:06 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

Local Doctor Creates Life-Saving Tool

A Sioux Falls doctor has made a possibly life-saving medical tool.  In the past, patients with thoraco-abdominal aortic aneurysms faced an extremely serious surgery that could leave them paralyzed. After seeing that happen to one patient, a Sanford doctor decided there had to be a safer solution.

Terri Ford has all her bags packed and is ready to go home; she's been in the hospital since Halloween.

"You don't realize I think that this could be it," Terri said.

"Very scary, very scary," Terri's husband, Del Ford, said.

Terri suffered an aneurysm in the aorta that ruptured. The wall of the major artery carrying blood out of her heart was damaged.

"To know that you could lose your partner, it's hard, very hard," Del said.

Dr. Patrick Kelly created a graft to help patients such as Terri. It allows doctors to enter a blood vessel through a small incision in the arm, rather than opening up a patient's chest or abdomen.

"If you look at the paralysis risk after an open repair, the classic thoraco-abdominal, it's about one in five," Sanford Dr. Patrick Kelly said.

While Ford is still recovering, patients who undergo the typical type of surgery for conditions like this often face more complications and take up to two years to recover.

"These people lose a good 35, 40 pounds and become emaciated," Kelly said.

But Terri says with this new stent, she has little pain and has spent less than a month in the hospital. She's one of only around a handful of patients who've had this new surgery.

"One of the people said, 'how many times have you done this because it went so well.' I said, 'I've done it 1,000 times.' They said, 'What do you mean?' I said, 'I've done it in my head 1,000 times," Kelly said.

Kelly created the stent after seeing a similar case end badly.

"Unfortunately, he was paralyzed after the case. The case went as well as I could ask, but he ended up with paralysis. It just breaks your heart. Here's a gentleman who loves to garden. At that point I said, 'There has to be a better fix," Kelly said.

And the Fords are very thankful the fix exists.

Kelly says he's had several companies contact him about manufacturing the stent.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
A misspelling was corrected in this story.

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