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Holly P. Caregiver

Pros & Cons of receiving an LVAD

Hello, I am new to this site, but I would like to get some information on patients with LVADs. My dad has to come a decision about an LVAD and this is all new to us. I would really like some input to better help us understand the whole process of getting an LVAD, what it's like to live with one and the health and financial side of this. Thank you to all for responding.

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kelvin w.

I hope this helps, I got my LVAD this past aug 2012 and i had plenty of question but didnt know what they where, so I know how you feel. My doctors told me I was at end stage CHF and my kidney had started showing signs of getting weak due to not having enough oxygen rich blood. (I was still up walking, driving and going shopping) I gave then the ok and I sayed in the hospital 2 weeks going thru pre-qualifcation. They started drawing blood so much that my veins started dodgeing the neddles! So I got the Heart Mate II LVAD 1) to save my life and 2) to save my organs and so that I can have a heart transplant later if I choose too. My LVAD is a bridge to transplant. I'm 53 yr old. I also have a defibrillator which I revieved in feb 2010.

My surgery took about 8 hrs and I stayed in ICU for 3 day (due to the knock out drugs given) normally I was told 1 day in ICU. 3rd day I opened my eyes and they got me up and walking with the help of a walker and nurses by my side and then sent me to my regular room. Stayed there for 7 days and was send home. Only able able to sleep on my back and sides. Allways staying aware of the controller location in bed or wearing it on waist all the time like I do. I take puppy baths.

For the Heart Mate II, you have two external devices, 1 to charge the 4 battery and the other for him to plug into a 13 ft extension cord. Both unit is the size of a fishing tackle box with cooling fans which he will hear operating sometime through out the night. Also they weight about 5 pounds each. For the next two months, a home nurse came and visit with me each weeks. Your dad will need someone with him once he come home for about 3 months or more. After 6 months he should be close to new. Once he get used to it and the new daily routine he'll be just fine. I'm doing just about anything I want except running a marithon. Currently I'm getting a close to 14 hrs on a set of batteries before needing to change them out. Currently i'm hoping to know by the end of next month if I will be placed on the transplants list.

I have the Heart Mate II, but wanted the other company Heart Ware model because of its newer technology and simplicy of extra equipment. Also it's not as bad on damageing red blood cells. The Heart Ware model was later FDA appproved the past November after I have already gotten my lvad. Also my insurance would only pay for FDA approve LVAD devices. I don't know his condition, but the LVAD will buy him some more time. My sister got a LVAD too late in her heart sickness and passed from kidney failure.

Hope this helps

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Holly P.

Mr. Wilson Thank you so much for the information you have provided. My dad also has end stage CHF with diabetes. I have a few questions for you if you don't mind answering: 1. Is two weeks the normal pre-qualification time for an LVAD? 2. What do you do if the allowed time for the battery runs out? Can you charge in a vehicle or generator? I work full time & more than that, he lives alone and I am just trying to get a plan together when this occurs. 3. You said something about 3 months having a home health nurse? Did you have someone stay with you the whole time day & night or just a weekly visit from the home health nurse? I actually received a packet from the LVAD Coordinator today to go over. I really appreciate your advise and your side of the coin. He has had stents, one of which has collapsed, triple by-pass, pacemaker/defib and upgrade on the pacemaker/defib about 2 years ago. 4. Did you have previous heart surgeries? 5. Did they leave your pacemaker/defib in? Sorry for so many questions, but whatever help you can give is greatly appreciated.

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Alyssa F.

My dad received his lvad December 6, 2012, and he just came home from the hospital last week, February 21. Unlike mr. Wilson's story, my dad's road to recovery was not so quick. My dad had a massive coronary on October 22 which left him with very little left ventricular function and initially the team was uncertain whether he would even be a candidate for the vad. After the heart attack, my day's stamina and energy were almost completely depleted. He went into the surgery in this state, and to make matters worse, he had a leaky aorta which they had to replace. My dad was in ICU for about 9 days, five of which were on a respirator. It was awful for all of us, and when he was off the respirator, my dad was disgusted with his condition. Dad eventually was moved to a medical floor but within days developed pneumonia and was back in ICU on a respirator. Dad was on the respirator for 3 days and stayed in ICU for about 2 1/2 weeks. At this time he went back down to the medical floor for about three weeks, then he spent about a month in rehab. We never expected this kind of experience but thank goodness, dad is getting a little stronger each day.

The doctors have said that dad's depleted state before surgery was a real strike against an easier recovery. While in rehab, we saw several other lvad patients who all seemed leaps and bounds ahead of my dad. It is good to finally be home, probably the best medicine. Dad uses a walker and a wheelchair and continues to have breathlessness, but he is certainly better than before the surgery. Finally, I think I should let you know that much of what has been going on is not vad related. Unfortunately, dad was on an aortic pump which doesn't allow the patient to be moved. As a result, he developed a bedsore which then got infected and led to bone infection. In short, a lot of my dad's difficulty at home is all the care of the wound he has. He is able to maneuver the vad on his own, and hopefully in time he will be getting stronger.

I know that I am glad my dad opted to have the vad, even though he has a completely different kind of life than before the heart attack. In terms of him, I think he is glad that he had it, but somedays are hard, especially when faced with a completely different life then the previous 76 years. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to know more

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kelvin w.

I have no problem answering any of your questions. But your LVAD Coordinator will be going over all of this in person with you/caregiver so you?ll know what to expect. Also ask to talk with one of their current LVAD patient. Some of what I?m telling you below is some of the things the hospital they may over look.

Your 1st question??It all depends on the number of tests the doctors want to perform on him. Some tests can be done as an outpatient and he may not have to be hospitalized but I doubt it. The doctors will want to watch him closely during that time of pre-qualification. Myself, I went to the hospital emergency room because my heart was racing and I was afraid of my defibrillator shocking me. (I have Dilated Cardiomyopathy, weakening of the heart Muscle. family genetics). So they didn?t let me go home and put me in a room. Doctors came in and said I need a new Heart. My EF was around 17 %. ( they did not put me on the transplant list at that time because I tested positive for nicotine and I had just started back to smoking 1 a day a few months back).

Your 2nd question???.with the Heart Mate II LVAD you get a extra waist side Controller and extra set of batteries. (4 batteries total) The battery sides out of a holder via an easy clip and the batteries are the size of a laptop computer battery. These items he will carry with him each time he leaves home. If he go out of town he will carry all his LVAD equipment. The home desk top unit with the 13 ft cord which he will plug into at bedtime also comes with a cigarette lighter cord for the car. The 13 ft cord can be removed. Remember this unit is the size of a shoe box weighting about 4 lbs. He will also get a ?1 Time Use Emergency Battery? It?s good for 8 hours of use 1 time. It?s has a shoulder strip and about the size of a 8x10 picture 2

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helen s.

I am worried about how much care I will need after getting the LVAD. My husband is severely visually impaired. He can see a very small amount with the one eye he has left. Is it possible to hire help for the after care? is it something I could do myself? or can I figure out a rotation of friends to help me? Or is the LVAD just not an option without a live in family member that is sighted?
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In reply to by helen s.

Jenny T.

My vader and I (a sixty two year old male) are currently in rehab and he is building strength to cope with life at home. Apart from encouragement and keeping an eye on things, all I really do is manage the changing of the driver exit dressings. My partner said that once he is strong again he thinks he could do his own dressings (he already keeps his own stats written down) and i think he is right. I enjoy the task so likely I will continue to do the dressings but basically when back home it will be like when his heart had left him tired and breathless … ill do the work he cant and our life together will remain similar to how it was. Everyone  is different but that is our story. All the very best! 

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Larry C.

I am being tested to see if I can get on the transplant list.  I am 70 years old and received my LVAD about 7 months ago. It seems to be working fine, and I am concerned about the amount of time and intensive aftercare a transplant would mean. I would appreciate anyone's advice on this. 

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In reply to by Larry C.

Larry B.

I had been on the transplant list for almost 9 yrs as a stage 2 (under old system). At age 66 I started getting much worse and the LVAD was offered under the HM3 clinical study program. After having my LVAD about six months I was offered the opportunity of going back on the transplant list. My family and I discussed the pros and cons and decided to opt out. If I had been lucky enough to get a heart it would mean a third open heart surgery and most surgeons shy away from a third one. All that came going through my mind was three strikes and your out! That, coupled with feeling great with the LVAD made it a no brainer to turn 5he opportunity down. I do everything now at age 72 that I did before receiving my LVAD including playing golf twice a week. I should say everything except swim and giving that up was a small price to still be around.

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Diane B.

Hi Larry  My husband was faced with the same question a couple of years ago. He went through and passed all of the tests and evaluations needed for transplant. His MD wanted him to come in and have another right heart cath prior to being presented for consideration. He was 71 at the time and was adamant that he wanted a transplant and not an LVAD. Unfortunately they discovered he had severe pulmonary hypertension and he was denied by the transplant committee. He was in severe failure at that point and I was told on Friday to get things in order because they did not feel even an LVAD could be done. Sunday afternoon I got a call from one of the surgeons who had convinced the team that he could do an LVAD and save him but there was no guarantees for the final outcome. Bottom line,  he survived and is functioning very well. We were able to travel to France in July with our family to celebrate our 50th. He now says he is glad he got the VAD because dealing with many diet changes and anti rejection drugs would probably be more difficult tha not going swimming again. I know at the time they did his surgery I was told that doing a transplant is easier for the surgeon and patient than the VAD.

I wish you luck with the process and hope you do have the choice in the future. I thing with either option we are blessed that the medical advances have allowed severe heart failure patients to chose to spend more time with their families and loved ones.