Update on my Heart Health and what is upcoming.

Well, much has changed as of recent. I have faced a huge change in my life in relation to my heart health. here is a rundown of what has happened, and the future plans are in regards to it.

On June 10th I was admitted to Florida Hospital in Orlando to undergo LVAD surgery. (Left Ventricular Assist Device) My left ventricle has been in very poor health since my first heart attack in 2011, and even after the Medtronic’s ICD implant 2 years ago (Pacemaker and Defibulator) the right ventricle too began to fail. I was struggling to breathe and very lethargic, so went straight to Cape Canaveral Hospital. After a heart catheterization, I was referred to Florida Hospital by Dr. Goodfellow for the LVAD implant.

Upon being admitted, the heart failure team went right to work on rebuilding the right ventricles strength and treat the AFIB I had been in for some time. This was VERY touch and go for several days. It involved them implanting a balloon pump, as well as a potpourri of medications. This continued for several days. Initially, I was not a candidate for the LVAD surgery, but thanks to the heart failure team’s dedication I was stabilized within a week and could undergo the surgery. Florida Hospital is known for having one of the best Heart Failure and Heart Transplant teams in the nation.  An entire team or cardiologists and surgeons worked on my behalf to get me to a place where I was no longer facing immediate death.

I underwent LVAD implant surgery (which is open heart surgery much like a bypass or transplant) on June 26th and was in the new critical intensive care unit (built with support from President Bush’s family), for two (2) weeks.  (I was the first patient to use the new CCU as a matter of fact!) The surgery is quite traumatic to my body, so I had to basically rebuild my muscle strength after atrophy set in with a matter of a couple of days while I was sedated. I couldn’t move more than my head at first, but once I was conscious the nurses were working to get me out of bed and to begin physical therapy. This started as leg and arm exercises but was very limited as I was taking sternal precautions. But after the first week, I was able to walk with the use of a walker a few feet and could finally get out of bed to sit in a chair. Eating was quite a challenge, which is critically important for the body’s recovery, and my taste buds were far gone. But I knew I didn’t want to be left on a feed tube so made the best of it. Slowly the pain began to subside and I was weaned off of the narcotics. By this point, I was gaining mobility and was released from CCU to the progressive care unit to continue my recovery.

I spent the next four (4) weeks in PCU, longer than most LVAD patients, as they continued to work on stabilizing my right ventricle as well as my lungs. My lungs had become accustomed to the low blood flow, so when the LVAD was implanted and at full speed, it began to back up in my lungs. They decreased the pump speed and began treating the pulmonary hypertension. But this gave me the time to regain my mobility and some independence, such as being able to wash and dress or use the restroom without assistance. By the time I was discharged on July 29th, I was ready to go home and being able to care for myself with less support from my caregivers. I have also lost a great deal of weight, being admitted at 235 pounds and released at 195 pounds. (Mostly water retention.)

I am in recovery yet, with a couple of weeks ahead before I can begin driving again. I am very fortunate to have great support from friends as caregivers, helping me get to my appointments and errands as needed, such as groceries.

In roughly four (4) weeks or so, I will be re-evaluated after another right heart catheterization to determine if my lungs are then strong enough for a heart transplant. If so, I will be placed on the transplant waiting list shortly after or if not, continue physical and medical therapy until my lungs are strong enough once again.

Yes, the end goal is a heart transplant. I am most likely able to live with the LVAD for some time, but with me being relatively young my chances of living a normal life for many years are better with a new heart. A heart transplant has some short-comings, such as living with a weakened immune system due to anti-rejection medications making you easily subject to illness. I will also undergo, obviously, open heart surgery once again and will have to once again go through the recovery process not much different then I had undergone for the LVAD implant surgery. I will have to rely on caregivers much more the second time most likely because I will be released sooner than the previous stay.

Even though it may seem like much, I am positive and have faith in God that I will come through this entire situation quite well. I would like to thank all those who have supported me, for the prayers, and the love I have been shown. I am deeply humbled and am incredibly thankful.

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