96-year-old has the heart to keep going

Elaine Sanderson recently had heart surgery on her 96th birthday. She and her great-granddaughter share the same birthdate.

Elaine Sanderson recently had heart surgery on her 96th birthday. She and her great-granddaughter share the same birthdate.

Elaine Sanderson’s new year got off to a rough start. The longtime Canyon Laker fell over a Christmas present on December 14. The injury to her knee quickly caused it to swell to the size of a small melon and turn ugly purple, prompting her daughter, Lynda Hoffman, to call 9-1-1.

The oversized hematoma kept the 96-year-old in rehab over Christmas and New Year; but she finally was released to come home January 15. Ten hours after returning to her Rim Rock Dr. home, Elaine collapsed into unconsciousness. Once again, Lynda called 9-1-1. Paramedics confirmed Elaine was having a heart attack and transported her to Loma Linda Medical Center in Murrieta.

At this point, friends and family were wondering how much more Elaine’s fragile frame could endure. An angiogram showed that her circumflex artery was 99 percent blocked, so a coronary angioplasty was performed using local anesthetic.

During an angioplasty, a catheter is inserted into one’s artery through an incision in the groin or arm and guided to the affected coronary artery using an X-ray video. When the catheter is in place, a thin wire is guided through the coronary artery, delivering a small balloon to the affected section. The balloon is inflated to widen the artery, squashing fatty deposits against the artery wall so blood can flow through it more freely when the deflated balloon is removed.

When a stent is being used, this will be around the balloon before it’s inserted. The stent expands when the balloon is inflated and remains in place when the balloon is deflated and removed.

Lynda says the stent procedure was successful and doctors were amazed that Elaine’s other arteries looked clear. However, one sharp-eyed doctor spotted an abnormality – her atrial valve was almost completely closed due to the calcification of old age.

Until then, her treatment was somewhat routine, even for her advanced age. Now, a riskier procedure would be necessary; one that required a specialized team at Loma Linda University Medical Center in Loma Linda to evaluate whether Elaine even qualified.

Loma Linda received accreditation to perform Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) just over three years ago, the first in the Inland Empire to do so. TAVR provides an alternative to open heart surgery for patients who are considered inoperable, and is performed by a joint team of cardiologists, cardiac and vascular surgeons, and cardiac anesthesiologists.

The non-surgical approach typically takes two to three hours and involves replacing an aortic valve with a new valve attached to a catheter inserted in the aorta. For Lynda, the wait to learn whether her mom qualified for the procedure was agonizing.

Did her mom have the heart to keep going?

Having family members and friends who love and support you often is the reason heart patients survive their ordeals. And Elaine has plenty of people who love her – most notably her daughter and son-in-law Lynda and Jeff Hoffman, and her grandson and his wife Brian and Janice (Yapp) Hoffman, who all live in Canyon Lake. Her great-granddaughter, Kinsley Hoffman, was born on her birthday in 2015.

She also has many friends. Elaine and her then-husband Dick Williamson moved to Canyon Lake in 1971. A sociable couple, Elaine and Dick jumped into golfing and the social activities going on at the Lodge. Elaine also became active in the Woman’s Club. Initially, they bought three lots and a mobile home in the Fairway Estates. Their plan was to build a house on one of their lots, but Dick passed away before that happened and Elaine stayed in the mobiles where she had many friends.

Elaine, at left, was crowned Mrs. Canyon Lake in 1980.

Elaine, at left, was crowned Mrs. Canyon Lake in 1980.

After her grief subsided, Elaine carried on with golfing and socializing. She later met widower “Sandy” Sanderson at a dinner-dance at the Lodge. They were married in April 1974 and moved into his new house on Rim Rock. Lynda recalls her mom always being friendly and fun-loving and “going to everything” that took place in the community. She was crowned Mrs. Canyon Lake at the first pageant held in the Fireside Room at the old Lodge in 1980.

Elaine especially enjoyed community sing-alongs and became a longtime member of the Canyon Lake Choraleers. She was a charter member of Canyon Lake Community Church and taught Sunday School there for 20 years. She continued to enjoy Canyon Lake life to the fullest, maintaining friendships through the Woman’s Club and her many bridge groups into her 80s and 90s.

Lynda and Jeff and 5-year-old Brian moved to Canyon Lake in 1987. After Sandy passed away in the late 80s, Lynda and her mom became even closer. For many years now, hardly a Mother’s Day has passed without Lynda putting a tribute to her mom in The Friday Flyer. Last year she wrote that her mother inspires and enriches the family with her “never-ending kind heart, positive attitude and beautiful spirit.” “Having her in our lives for so long is a wonderful miracle. Nothing is better than to be able to see my mom every single day,” she wrote.

When it seemed her mom might not make it during an illness last fall, Lynda prayed for a miracle. Her prayer was that Elaine at least would live until her 96th birthday on January 28, the big day she would share with 1-year-old Kinsley. The family took it one day at a time as Elaine struggled with her knee injury and then the heart attack.

Happily, it turns out Elaine did have the heart to go on. For the woman who loves her family and life in Canyon Lake, the miracle was granted. Doctors approved Elaine for the Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement surgery – which successfully took place on her 96th birthday.

As her relieved daughter commented, “Those doctors were looking at the kindest heart on this planet!”


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Donna Ritchie