Heart valve replacement patient celebrates 101st birthday nearly 1 year after innovative procedure


MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) – A heart valve replacement patient recently celebrated her 101st birthday nearly one year after her innovative procedure at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare.

On August 2, Vernice Jones turned 101, and as she nears the one-year anniversary of her procedure, Methodist Le Bonheur hosted a birthday party with her family, cardiac team, and health system leaders to celebrate her new milestone.

In the summer of 2022, Jones became uncharacteristically weak and began stumbling in her Cordova home. Fearing for her mother’s well-being, Beverle Spruill called 911 and an ambulance rushed her to Methodist Germantown Hospital.

A series of tests determined that Jones had a blocked heart valve and it needed to be replaced.

Vernice Jones and Methodist Germantown Hospital President Rebecca Cullison
Vernice Jones and Methodist Germantown Hospital President Rebecca Cullison(Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare)

Led by Dr. Mehul Patel, director of Methodist Le Bonheur’s structural heart disease program and hybrid lab, Jones underwent minimally invasive heart valve replacement on Sept. 27, 2022, and after spending a total of six hours in our Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital, she was able to go home on the same day to continue her recovery in the comfort of her home.

Typically, patients may spend one to five days in the hospital recovering from the procedure.

“The day of mom’s procedure, she was short of breath and so weak that she almost fell getting into the car,” said Beverle Spruill, Jones’ daughter. “Two hours after her surgery she was walking around, and we went home the same day. After recovering for about two weeks, she started going to cardiac rehab twice a week for exercises – something she couldn’t do before the procedure.”

“Mrs. Jones’s recovery post-surgery is remarkable. Her determination and spirit of survival is helping her outperform some patients who are 30 years younger than her,” said Dr. Patel. “Our innovative process cuts down hospitalization time from days to hours – making these life-saving procedures minimally invasive and less strenuous on patients and their families.”

Jones’ operation was so successful that by Thanksgiving she was cooking dinner for her family.

Vernice Jones and her cardiac team, with Dr. Mehul Patel on the left
Vernice Jones and her cardiac team, with Dr. Mehul Patel on the left(Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare)

“At first, I was hesitant about having a valve replacement at my age, but after meeting Dr. Patel with his genuine spirit and smile, which you don’t see often, that is when I decided to walk by faith and not by sight,” said Jones. “I put my trust in God, Dr. Patel and his team.”

Jones lived her early life as a sharecropper and raised eight kids. She wanted her children to know the importance of civil rights and took them to march in Downtown Memphis with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. two days before his assassination.

Methodist Le Bonheur’s globally recognized pioneering protocol makes Jones one of the oldest patients in the world to accomplish this heart valve replacement procedure.

The hospital system was awarded “Best Abstract” at the 2021 PCR London Valves Conference for its innovative, peer-reviewed protocol allowing heart surgery patients to return home on the same day of their procedure instead of the typical recovery time of one to five days.

The PCR London Valves Conference is one of the most prestigious conferences in the world for cardiology. The Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare system’s discharge process was also recognized as “Top Abstract” at the 2022 Cardiovascular Research Technologies Conference in Washington, D.C.

As the COVID-19 pandemic strained hospital systems around the world, it was necessary for healthcare workers to develop new processes to ensure all patients received timely, life-saving care. Led by Dr. Patel, Methodist Le Bonheur’s structural heart team pioneered the protocol.

Vernice Jones and Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare President Michael Ugwueke
Vernice Jones and Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare President Michael Ugwueke(Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare)

Methodist Le Bonheur cardiologists perform minimally invasive surgery by utilizing a small incision through the leg instead of open-heart surgery.

After the roughly 30-minute procedure, patients recover in a post-anesthesia care unit. The medical team evaluates follow-up tests for the patient including a heart ultrasound and EKG. If the medical team determines the tests are satisfactory, then the patient can return home.

“Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare is the first hospital system in the world with an award-winning, peer-reviewed abstract for this unique protocol with the largest spectrum and complexity of patients with structural heart valve disease” said Dr. Patel. “We offer same-day discharge for the broadest spectrum of heart procedures such as transcatheter aortic and mitral valve replacement, mitral valve repairs, Watchman procedures and more.”

The protocol developed by Methodist Le Bonheur is so well-received by cardiovascular surgeons that Dr. Patel advises heart centers around the world on how to implement it.

The innovative process ensures heart patients around the globe receive life-saving treatment in a punctual manner.

Friends and family of Vernice Jones surround her during her birthday party along with Methodist...
Friends and family of Vernice Jones surround her during her birthday party along with Methodist Le Bonheur team members.(Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare)

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