How many Aggies does it take to mend a broken heart?

By: Natasha Barrett

If you have spent any time in Texas, you’ve heard the jokes and probably told a few of them yourself.

Like, how many Aggies does it take to change a lightbulb? The list goes on and on.

Don’t worry, Aggies, this isn’t that kind of story. It’s quite the opposite.

Bill Creager (yes, Creager, as in father of Texas country music star Roger Creager) started feeling sick last year and that feeling didn’t stop.

“I just had a whole lot of trouble breathing. I didn’t have a whole lot of energy and I couldn’t walk very far,” Creager said.

Creager went to see a doctor near Corpus Christi. Doctors told him his heart valve, which was replaced in 2009, was failing.

“The guy there scared the hell out of me,” Creager said. “He told me the thing was bad enough that he wasn’t going to try [the surgery], and he said, ‘If I do it, you’ve got about a 10 percent chance of surviving it.’”

A Second Opinion

Creager was stunned. But, his family and six children demanded a second opinion. That second opinion led Creager to a doctor’s appointment in Houston with Cardiologist Dr. Richard Smalling, the director of interventional cardiovascular medicine at Memorial Hermann Heart and Vascular Institute-Texas Medical Center.

“When I came and I visited with Dr. Smalling, I wasn’t sure he could fix me. The words that I didn’t want to hear were, ‘I can’t help you,’” Creager said. “But then pretty soon he started talking to me we were just kind of visiting a little bit when he said, ‘OK, well here’s what we’re going to do.’”

Dr. Smalling recognized that Creager’s prior heart valve was failing because it was too small for his heart size and it needed to be replaced. The type of procedure Creager needed is known as a TAVR, something Dr. Smalling had performed more than a thousand times.

A TAVR, a transcatheter aortic valve replacement, is a minimally-invasive surgery used to repair an aortic valve that has narrowed or does not open properly.

Creager had surgery on Dec. 3 and he says he immediately started feeling like himself again. His son, Roger, was in town for the surgery.

“Dr. Smalling came out and the first thing he said was, ‘The surgery is over and it went perfectly,’” Roger Creager said. “And that’s exactly what you want to hear. Shortly after the surgery, [my dad’s] color changed, and he was lying in bed still loopy from the medicine … but he looked great, immediately. We were all pleasantly surprised by that. I think once the blood begins flowing to all the parts of your body, everything else improves—not just your heart, but your kidneys improve and your lymph nodes clear—everything seems to function better.”

25 Days After Surgery

By Dec. 28, Creager was back on stage next to his son. They amazed a sold out audience at the Goode Company Armadillo Palace in Houston that night.

Turns out, Roger Creager is a good friend of Greg Haralson, Senior Vice President and CEO for Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center. Both went to Texas A&M University. Haralson recommended he call Dr. Smalling for that second opinion.

So, to come full circle, how many Aggies does it take to mend a heart? None.

It just takes two to ultimately make the right call.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Ali Vise