SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) -- On Monday, one of Santa's helpers paid a visit to the team of Sutter doctors and nurses who likely saved her life.
Last year, for the first time in 20 years, Margie Malaspino could not play Mrs. Claus for her women’s group.
“That’s what makes Christmas come alive. Presents are one thing but when you actually take time out to spend with a person I think that’s more important,” she told FOX40. “As much as I would have liked to, I couldn’t. I didn’t have the endurance. I could hardly walk across the room.”
The 87-year-old was in heart failure and her aortic valve had closed.
“It’s a fatal condition,” said Sutter Heart and Vascular Institute Medical Director Dr. David Roberts, who specializes in interventional cardiology. “Once symptomatic, your life expectancy is about two years. In the old days, you had to open someone up and for an 87-year-old, it was almost prohibited.”
Determined to save Christmas this year, Dr. Roberts found another way.
It’s called a transcatheter aortic valve replacement. Doctors threaded a catheter containing a new heart valve through a vein and expanded it inside of Malaspino. There was no cutting necessary.
“After the procedure, shoot, I can walk through the whole house now and think nothing of it,” Malaspino said.
This Christmas, she was back to her duties as Mrs. Claus, passing out candy canes to the doctors and nurses who saved her.
She said she wanted this successful surgery to inspire other seniors to put their health first too.
“I have a couple of friends that when they lost their mate they just stay at home,” she said with a tear in her eye. “They’ve given up and I don’t want them to.”
Mrs. Claus told FOX40 she is looking forward to celebrating the holiday this year with her whole family.