Open-heart surgery has been the status quo for a long time, and for younger patients, it works. The problem is, seniors, a group of people more likely to be afflicted by a heart ailment, are much less likely to survive the procedure.
In 2000, Tal Golesworthy, a British engineer, was told that he suffers from Marfan syndrome, a disorder of the connective tissue that often causes rupturing of the aorta. The only solution then available was the pairing of a mechanical valve and a highly risky blood thinner. To an engineer like Golesworthy, that just wasn't good enough. So he constructed his own implant that does the job better than the existing solution--and became the first patient to try it.
So-called keyhole surgery techniques have come a long way in recent decades, but a lack of dexterity and freedom of movement means sometimes surgeons can't get the job done, and that means they have to go in the old fashioned way: Straight through the breastbone.