Steve – Heart Transplant … Just in Time

Heart Failure / Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD

Steve was out of breath and tired…a lot. He knew his heart failure was like a ticking time bomb.

“We knew it may happen eventually,” said Steve, 50, who finally landed in the intensive care unit after collapsing at home. “My cardiologist told me it was time to get on the list.”

Gravely ill, and knowing it was the only option to save his life, Steve got on the list for a heart transplant. While he was waiting for a heart to become available, he also found out that he was a candidate for a new program that would better prepare him for a transplant. Steve became the first of two patients at Sutter Memorial Hospital to “bridge to transplant,” a long-term mechanical heart pump. The left ventricular assist device (LVAD) was implanted in Andersen”s abdomen and sewn into his left ventricle and aorta. Its function was to do most of the work of his heart and continued to do so until a donor heart became available.

The device works by taking over the pumping function from the left ventricle, delivering oxygenated blood from the lungs to the body via the aorta. In one study, the American Heart Association reported the pumps extended the average life span of heart patients from three months to more than 10 months.

The LVAD not only worked to keep Steve’s heart beating, it gave him a new outlook in life. He started walking daily and signed up for the American Heart Association”s Community Heart Walk in Sacramento with other members of the Sutter Heart & Vascular Institute walk team. And when the new heart became available – Steve was more than ready.

Last November, Steve got his transplant. And thanks to the LVAD his body was better equipped for surgery and recovery. He was back to work only a few months after the transplant and is now more active than ever.

Keeping Andersen”s heart pumping while he waited for a heart to become available meant that he could get his lifesaving operation without going far from home, said Dr. Robert Kincade, the surgeon who performed Andersen”s transplant.

“This program allows more patients to be eligible for heart transplants in our system,” he said. “Previously, a lot of these patients would have either died or gone to the Bay Area.”