There are 63,000 people in this country right now dying from end stage heart failure. Only 2500 of those actually get a heart transplant. Nancy Naeve Brown met a man from Rapid City who is on the waiting list, but is surviving because of 2 implantable devices.
Stuart Swanson from Rapid City has no blood pressure and no pulse and yet here he is.
Stuart says, "What I have is idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy. That's a big old word that means I have a swelled up heart that they don't know why it did it."
Stuart found out 10 years ago his heart was skipping beats. He came to the Avera Heart Hospital where Electrophysiologist Dr. Paul Olson with North Central Heart implanted a combination defibrillator-pacemaker device near his heart. Stuart comes back to Sioux Falls on a regular basis to make sure it's working right.
Stuart says, "So what it did is if my heart went to fast it shocked my heart out of that fast rhythm. Those shocks are like being kicked in the chest by a cow. It's not good. To date I've had 149 shocks."
A year and a half ago Stuart found out he would need more than a defib to survive. His heart was only pumping blood to the rest of his organs at 10%.
Stuart says, "When it's that low your kidney's start to fail and so forth and so forth. I was at end stage heart failure at that point."
While waiting for a heart transplant, doctors in Mayo performed open heart surgery to put in a mechanical pump called an LVAD which stands for Left Ventricular Assist Device.
Dr. Olson says, "It involves a pump that's placed from the left ventricle out to the aorta to pump from forward to improve cardiac output in people whose output is low. The left ventricle is the chamber that pumps blood out to the body."
Stuart says, "The outlet at the bottom of my left ventricle. This tubing is tied to the pump. The pump runs continuously. It doesn't pulsate; it runs constantly (which is why he has no pulse or measurable blood pressure). The pump drives blood back up the aorta so my heart can distribute the blood throughout my body. From the pump runs electricity there is a wire that goes from the pump through the abdomen through a percutaneous cord. That means the skin of the abdomen grows around the cord so you don't have infection or leakage.
This bag is literally his life line. It holds the batteries that run the computer controller that powers the LVAD.
Stuart says, "I would like to have a heart, you bet."
Unlike the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz, Stuart has a heart of gold, it just doesn't work anywhere close to gold standard so he'll wait for that day when he gets the call and hopes you and your family strongly consider organ donation. It's the only real shot he has for a healthy somewhat normal life again.
Stuart's book "Living without a Pulse" is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Xlibris Publishing.