Rosemary B Walking On Sunshine

Passaic County resident celebrates renewed health and hope after heart procedure

Rosemary Brand is happiest when she’s on the go. Between fitness classes at the local gym and backyard barbeques, the 78-year-old Passaic County resident enjoys a busier schedule than many women half her age – which made it all the more devastating when she developed a disabling heart condition that claimed her vitality and independence.

Struggling with Valve Disease

About 12 years ago, Rosemary’s cardiologist, Ravi Rathi, MD, FACC, of Jersey City Medical Center and a member of Barnabas Health Medical Group (BHMG), both part of RWJBarnabas Health, detected a heart murmur and diagnosed her with aortic stenosis, a narrowing of the heart’s aortic valve that results from the accumulation of calcium. The degenerative disease gradually progresses, crippling the heart’s ability to pump oxygen-rich blood to the brain and other organs while weakening the heart itself. Over time, patients may suffer from chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness, and other symptoms that impair their health, mobility and quality of life.

“Over the last year, I could barely breathe or walk,” said Rosemary. “I missed picnics, dinners, shopping trips… everything. All my family is in Ireland, so it was the company of my friends that I missed most.”

Innovative Treatment

Rosemary’s condition steadily deteriorated, leading to the onset of heart failure and a poor prognosis. Her only hope for survival was an aortic valve replacement, as there is no effective medical therapy for severe aortic stenosis.

Rosemary was not a candidate for open-heart surgery, due to her age and co-existing health issues, but thanks to advances in treatment – and access to New Jersey’s most extensive heart care network – she had another option: transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR).

In early 2017, Rosemary was referred to interventional cardiologist Vladimir Znamensky, MD, who is also part of BHMG, and Jersey City Medical Center’s TAVR Screening Program, a unique service through which the hospital’s cardiac specialists work in partnership with the heart team at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center (NBIMC) to evaluate potential TAVR candidates. Among the latest innovations in valve replacement, this minimally invasive approach enables physicians to mount a new, collapsible valve (made of tissue or synthetic materials) on the tip of a catheter, which is threaded to the heart through an artery in the leg. Once in place, the new valve is expanded and begins working immediately. No chest incision is required, resulting in less pain, less risk for complications, and quicker recovery.

A Whole New Life

Soon after her assessment at Jersey City Medical Center, Rosemary received a new aortic valve at NBIMC. Both hospitals are part of RWJBarnabas Health, which completes more TAVR procedures than any other health care system in the state.

“It was smooth sailing,” exclaims Rosemary. “I woke up from surgery and the sun was shining… I felt fantastic!” The TAVR procedure, performed by Dr. Znamensky and cardiothoracic surgeon Mark Russo, MD, markedly improved Rosemary’s heart function and symptoms.

“All those years I was gasping for air,” she asserted. “Now there’s nothing holding me back!” Rosemary is once again bustling around town, enjoying the camaraderie of her friends, and planning for the future. In fact, she’s even considering a trip to Ireland.

“That procedure gave me a whole new life,” added Rosemary. “I am so happy!”

For more information about the cardiac services offered by RWJBarnabas Health or to make an appointment with one of New Jersey’s top cardiologists, visit For information about TAVR, visit