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It’s all about the heart

Realtor Bessie Kramis is back to putting her heart into helping people find the right home.

Woman in her 80s posing for a picture in her kitchen.
Helping others find the perfect home is more than a job for Bessie—it’s her passion.

After more than 30 years in the real estate business, 84-year-old Bessie Kramis knows there’s more to helping clients find their dream home than just taking them to look at houses. Gorgeous photos and staging help—but what you really need is heart.

“You have to make connections with people,” she said. “You need to listen to what they want, show them what they want to see and then understand them enough so you can guide them to houses you think they’d really be happy living in. It’s a lot of fun—but it’s a lot of hard work, too.”

Bessie said that one of the things she most enjoys is helping someone who may be going through a big change in their lives, and finding them a new place to call home.

“So often, someone is getting relocated to a new area, or their spouse recently died or maybe they’re sick and have to sell their house,” she said. “You have to be very patient and very kind. I like that I can be there for people.”

Woman in her 80s, sitting on the arm of a green couch in her living room.
After a minimally invasive valve procedure, Bessie is back to living her life to the fullest.

Last year, Bessie went through a big change of her own. Despite a lifetime of being active and healthy, she began feeling short of breath just climbing the stairs in her summer home on Long Beach Island.

Her daughter and son-in-law noticed her labored breathing. “They said I needed to get it looked at,” Bessie said. “That’s what started this whole thing.”

Bessie met with heart care experts at Staten Island University Hospital, where she received a diagnosis of acute aortic stenosis, a dangerous narrowing of a heart valve. Interventional cardiologists Gregory Maniatis, MD, and Mohammed Imam, MD, talked to Bessie about her options. After discussions with the doctors and her family, she opted for coronary artery bypass surgery, convinced that it would be a better choice than stents—another option they presented.

“My doctors were very good at explaining to me the pros and cons of the different things they could do to help,” she said. “I was a little nervous about the idea of open-heart surgery, but they told me that in spite of my age, they thought I’d make a good candidate because I was so healthy otherwise.”

Bessie credits the excellent care she received from the surgeons and nurses at Staten Island University Hospital. Even though her recovery was remarkably fast, she still had lingering problems with shortness of breath.

Dr. Imam and Dr. Maniatis recommended she undergo a transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), a minimally invasive procedure that replaces a damaged aortic valve.

“This procedure is much less invasive than traditional surgical aortic valve replacement and is fast becoming the standard of care for older patients,” Dr. Maniatis explained.

“I have to tell you, the TAVR was just wonderful,” Bessie said. “I was home two days after that procedure—and it really did not bother me at all. And within a couple weeks, I was feeling very, very well.”

She remains grateful to Dr. Maniatis and Dr. Imam for giving her what she calls a “second chance.”

“I was so lucky. If I had waited another few years, who knows what would have happened? The doctors and staff were very caring and very good with their work. They were just top-notch.”

Woman in her 80s posing for a picture outside her home.
Bessie stays active and never misses a beat, all thanks to her new heart valve.

Within a month, Bessie was back in her real estate office, reinstating old connections and making new ones with clients. And today, Bessie is back to living her life to the fullest. Each morning, she heads out to exercise and then goes to the office.

“I work on the machines for my legs and arms,” she said. “And when I’m done, I go into the office and figure out what I need to do for the day. I may be out seeing houses with a client or going to a closing. Life as a realtor is very busy. You never know what may come up. It’s such an amazing career.”

But as busy as she is, Bessie also makes sure to leave plenty of time for friends and family. On weekends, chances are, you’ll find her in the kitchen whipping up a tasty Greek meal for the people she loves.

“I love spending time with my children, as well as seeing my friends when I can,” she said. “We get together, we laugh and we just have so much fun. There’s nothing better.”