CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) – Open heart surgery is a scary thing. Every year millions of Americans are faced with the tough choice to go under the knife. Now, a newer procedure right here in Champaign-Urbana is changing the game.

When Jim Bier starts talking about gardening, he could go on all day.

“Gardening is a hobby,” Bier said.

He’s spent a lot of his life working on gardens. Like the one in his backyard and several at the Japan House on the U of I campus.

“I’ll be out there, I’ll be out there pretty soon, as soon as we get a good day,” he said.

For the past few years, gardening has got a bit more difficult for Bier to do.

“I can sit on a bucket, at least for what I was doing last fall, last summer, pretty much handicap. I could sit on a 5 gallon bucket and work in one spot,” he said.

Eight years ago, he had open-heart surgery. Then in December of 2021 doctors decided he needed a heart valve replaced. Now, in his mid 90’s, doctors said they were worried about him surviving another open heart surgery.

Instead, doctors at OSF Heart of Mary Medical told him about Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement, or TAVR. The FDA approved it in 2011, and even more recently, a team to perform it was launched at OSF.

It’s a minimally-invasive procedure that meant he had a higher rate of survival and could live a fuller life.

“What I offered him was more of a quality of life than longevity. He’s already 94, but a robust 94 and still works his garden and so forth, and we wanted to let him go down to the sunset gracefully,” Ashraf Al-Dadah, cardiac catheterization lab director for OSF, said.

“I can do a lot of work, no huffing and puffing like it used to be,” Bier said.

Bier said he might be 94, but he feels like he’s 60. His only complaint now, his knees.

“What was done now makes me feel really much better than I have in many years at the moment. If I get my legs all set, I’m good for another who knows,” he said.

Bier said he’s extremely grateful for the procedure and being able to have it. Plus, the recovery time is significantly shorter. Bier was able to go home just days later.