John Scott’s first hint that something was wrong with his heart came four years ago when he was moving furniture in his home and became uncharacteristically short of breath. When his breathlessness increased and became serious, he went to Albany Medical Center’s emergency department. There he was diagnosed with heart failure. He was barely 40 years old.
For the first few years, Scott managed by taking Milrinone, a medication that increases the ability of the heart to contract. “I thought I could live the rest of my life and be OK just taking my medication,” he said. “But the doctors at Albany Med explained that you can’t stay on Milrinone your whole life. I have a 5 year-old son. I want to see him grow up. That’s why I decided to go on the heart transplant list.”
However, the wait can be long and sometimes means that very sick individuals need to be hospitalized away from their families while they wait. Fortunately, in early 2012, Albany Medical Center began to offer patients like Scott a new option—the HeartMate II. This implanted device is also known as an LVAD (left ventricular assisted device), a heart pump designed to help the left side of the heart to pump oxygen-rich blood to the body. It doesn’t replace the heart, but it can help people feel better and stay healthier while they wait for a heart transplant.
“I want to be as strong as possible for surgery,” Scott says. Dr. Stuart Miller, lead surgeon for mechanical assist devices, and his team surgically implanted the HeartMate earlier this year and today John is back at home.
The only obvious evidence of the device is the battery pack John carries in a small shoulder bag. Taking a walk with his son on a summer day, he hardly looks like a cardiac patient.
“I have so much to live for,” he says. “And I’m so grateful for all the doctors and nurses at Albany Med who are helping me through this.”