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Foundation story

You paved the way for innovation: Ken’s TAVR story

Published on Tuesday February 13, 2024
Ken Burger

"What a difference it has made in my life"

Gifts through the Centra Foundation played a role in bringing a minimally invasive procedure to central Virginia that helps patients avoid open-heart surgery. The TAVR procedure was first performed at Centra in 2016. Since then, over 1,150 procedures have been performed. Ken Burger counts himself lucky to be among those who have benefited and says he is grateful for innovative care close to home.

Four years ago, Ken Burger would have needed open-heart surgery or to travel elsewhere if not for a new option available locally.

Fortunately for Ken and many others, gifts through the Centra Foundation played a role in bringing a minimally invasive procedure to Centra in 2016 (TAVR, which stands for transcatheter aortic valve replacement) that helps patients avoid open-heart surgery, long hospital stays and an extended recovery. Ken’s trusted doctor recommended that he have the procedure done.

“I went home the next day,” he said. “I was in the field helping my wife and daughter harvest for their business a month later. I took it easy, but I was out there.”

His annual check-up is next month. 

“Tests ever since have been positive and spectacular,” said Ken, who served as executive director of independent living at the Lynchburg senior living retirement community The Summit and as a minister before retiring. Even if the pace isn’t as hectic, he remains active.

“What a difference it has made in my life.”

Transforming heart and vascular care

Gifts from the community have long helped to transform heart and vascular care for central Virginia. In this case, gifts provided advanced cardiology training.

The FDA approved the TAVR procedure in 2014. In July of 2015, the Centra Foundation’s Charles Sackett Heart Fund helped to send cardiologist Fadi El-Ahdab, MD, to receive TAVR training in Munich, Germany. 

The fund was established to ensure that patients have access to state-of-the-art services, clinical expertise, facilities and technology dedicated to cardiovascular care. The first TAVR at Centra was completed in the Stroobants Cardiovascular Pavilion at Centra Lynchburg General Hospital on Feb. 12, 2016. 

Since then, over 1,150 TAVRs have been performed. The team passed the 1,000 mark at the end of 2022.

“TAVR was a game changer for many of our patients with severe aortic valve stenosis who are not candidates or are not interested in having open-heart surgery,” said Dr. El-Ahdab. “This valve condition is lethal if untreated. Prior to 2016, our patients had to travel to other cities to get this procedure so we felt that we had to start doing this life-saving procedure here in Lynchburg. Since 2016, we have performed more than 1,000 procedures that saved many lives and improved many patients’ quality of life significantly.”

A team effort

Ken is thankful for the innovative procedure, Dr. El-Ahdab and those who cared for him. 

“I had heard and read that Centra was among the top in the country as far as heart and vascular care, and I experienced that,” he said. “It was excellent, personal care. And not just from Dr. El-Ahdab, but from the entire staff. I’m so very grateful for these talented healers putting their God-given gifts to work.”

He is also glad that throughout his care, he has always felt like it was a partnership. 

“They’re not a team providing care to me,” he said. “We’re a team. They’re providing care with me. When I go back for my checkup, it will be friendly and professional. We’ll laugh some, but everyone understands how serious it is. 

“And it will be ‘we.’”


By the numbers

#1 - Heart disease remains the leading cause of
death in the U.S. and a major cause of disability

12.4% of people over the age of 75 
have aortic stenosis, a build-up of calcium deposits
on the aortic valve which requires intervention

Feb. 12, 2016 – the first TAVR was performed 
at Centra Lynchburg General Hospital

Over 1,150 lifesaving TAVRs 
have been performed at Centra since 2016



Your gifts help patients like Ken and everyone in our communities access innovative and excellent care close to home. 

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