N05 — February 2013 — 5 Years on a VAD
Intro: You have six months. Maybe a year. That was reality for heart failure patient Verna Schrombeck. Her condition had deteriorated to the point where treatment no longer helped. Because of her age, she was not a candidate for a heart transplant. Doctors at Mayo Clinic implanted a device that would hopefully keep Verna alive, at least a little while. Years later she shares her story.
Nat Sound "Piano Music"
To Verna Schrombeck, it's all about music. The music of life and family.
But not long ago end stage heart failure meant Verna did not have many more days left.
"He said you have six months to a year to live."
"I was just desperately, desperately ill."
Verna couldn't walk across a room.
"Shortness of breath, terrible."
And she couldn't play the piano.
"Her heart was very dilated and had very poor pumping capacity."
Dr. Margaret Redfield is Verna's cardiologist at Mayo Clinic.
"She was very debilitated with multiple hospitalizations. So she really did come to Mayo as a last resort."
"Without surgery she had no hope."
Dr. Redfield and surgeon Dr. Soon J. Park consulted with a research team and determined Verna was a candidate for what was then still an experimental operation. The implantation of what's called a ventricular assist device, or VAD, that would hopefully keep her alive.
"The device will be able to replace heart function."
During the open-heart surgery, Dr. Park implanted the device near Verna's heart. It's connected to the heart's main pumping chamber, the left ventricle and to the main artery carrying blood out to the body. A small wire extends outside of her body and hooks to an external battery pack. When turned on, the pump takes over much of her heart's work and delivers a continuous flow of blood to her body.
Verna's doctors thought, maybe this device could buy her a year. Perhaps two.
"Five years later she's still here."
"She was in the investigational trial that ultimately proved the dramatic benefits of this."
"We don't ask what life is all about. We look at what life asks of us. What do we do with our lives? And the answer to that is we respond."
"So when I do something with my grandchildren, I am grateful."
Thankful to once again be immersed in the music of life.
For Mayo Clinic News Network, I'm Vivien Williams.
Dr. Park says they’re not sure how long patients can live on VADs. He suspects Verna will have many more years. This technology is also used to keep heart patients alive while they wait for heart transplants.
For more information, visit our website at…
STATIONS: Per the licensing agreement, please provide a link from your station's website to http://www.MayoClinic.org or voice tag "MayoClinic.org" for more information.