Rick’s journey with CHF (congestive heart failure) has been quite a harrowing ride, and even a few of those twists, turns, and seemingly bottomless drops would have left most mortal men feeling quite defeated. But not Rick.
Rick could be the Poster Boy for CHF survival. While 80% of the men receiving this diagnosis die within the first two years, Rick is in year 15.
So how did he accomplish such an amazing feat? By being extremely proactive. After his diagnosis, he lost over 130 pounds, got his diabetes under control, kept his sodium levels down, and his attitude up.
He’s on his second ICD (implantable cardioverter-defibrillator). The first one lasted seven years before being replaced with a newer model, which not only shocks him if he strays from good rhythm, but paces him when he needs a little boost. It’s also able to report his medical status using wifi!
Rick’s definitely a gadget guy. He has an alarm set on his iPhone to remind him exactly when he needs to take another pill. And now he’s in line for one of the biggest, baddest gadgets of them all: an LVAD (left ventricular assist device). As I understand it (and I’m NOT a gadget girl), the LVAD is essentially an external pump for his heart. He’d wear battery packs under his arms in a holster, and have a control device hanging on his belt.
As I write this, Rick is in the OHSU (Oregon Health and Science University) CCU (cardio care unit). Yesterday they did a “right cath,” which means they put a tube in through his neck into his heart to monitor pressures. The tube is still there, and they continue to check out what’s going on with his most important muscular organ while they work to tweak this various meds through both pills and IVs.
The doctor has thoroughly explained the five options in his treatment. Pills and IVs alone are no longer completely effective in maintaining his quality of life. LVAD is number three, transplant is number four, and hospice is number five. So far, everything points to Rick being a good candidate for the LVAD, but there are lots more hoops his body must navigate before the team recommends the surgery.
Technological advances in health care are mindboggling. My eyes get blurry and my brain fogs over with the amount of information on LVADs out there at my fingertips, but I do know this: OHSU is on the cutting edge of this technology.
Rick is in the right place. And as one of the websites advertising the HeartMate II proclaims: “Hope Starts Here.”