7 Stories of Hope: ‘I Was Destined to Stay Here’ — New ventricular assisted device came along just in time for a damaged heart
– BY DANIEL JONES –
In 2011, while visiting North Carolina, Louis “Pee Wee” W. Powers was rushed to the hospital after losing three times in a 24-hour period.
It was from cardiac arrest, doctors said, coming 11 years after he suffered a heart attack. “I didn’t know how serious it was by the way they were handling me,” Powers, the retired Chester resident, now 70, says. “It never dawned on me that it was that serious.”
A pacemaker and a defibrillator were surgically implanted. Powers returned home to where Dr. Marc Katz, a cardiac surgeon with Bon Secours Health System, told him he was a prime candidate for a left ventricular assisted device (LVAD).
A battery-operated, mechanical device the size of two size-D batteries, the LVAD takes over the pumping activity from a failing heart’s left ventricle – the main pumping chamber – to restore normal circulation and significantly reduce the risk of death for those in end-stage heart failure.
According to Katz, who in 1989 implanted the first LVAD in Virginia, these patients have limited medical options. Traditionally they have been candidates for a heart transplant, but the need outweighs the supply. “Thirty percent of those waiting for heart transplants die waiting,” he says.
“That’s where these assist pumps came in,” Katz says. “[With one], they get back to living very normal lives.”
In Powers’ case, conventional heart surgery was considered, “but I thought by that point his heart was already too weak to tolerate any sort of valve repair,” Katz continues. Powers then became eligible for using an LVAD.
The timing was perfect. That same year, in 2011, the HeartMate 2 – the latest version of the LVAD, which lasts at least five years – was implanted in Powers. It remains today.
Powers, who says he is a good “field tester” for the device, still splits wood, goes hunting and fishing, and cuts his own grass.
“Looking back, I was destined to stay here for a little while longer,” Powers says. “It was like two roads running together at the same time: I had my problem right as the LVAD came out … It’s given me some extra time.”
Daniel Jones is BOOMER‘s editorial assistant. Contact him at Daniel@TheBoomerMagazine.com.