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Medical Edge: VAD Helps Heart Failure Patient

Posted at: 02/12/2013 6:48 PM
Updated at: 02/12/2013 6:56 PM

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- Six months. Maybe one year. That was how long one woman was told she would live after being diagnosed with heart failure.

Her condition was so bad treatment no longer helped and she was too old to get a heart transplant. But with the help of Mayo Clinic Verna Schrombeck is living against the odds.

"He said you have six months to a year to live," said Schrombeck.

She couldn't walk across a room.

Dr. Margaret Redfield is Schrombeck's cardiologist at Mayo Clinic.

"She was very debilitated with multiple hospitalizations. So she really did come to Mayo as a last resort," said Dr. Redfield.

"Without surgery she had no hope," said Dr. Soon J. Park, a Mayo Clinic cardiac surgeon.

Dr. Redfield and surgeon Dr. Soon J. Park consulted with a research team and determined Schrombeck was a candidate for what was then still an experimental operation. The implantation of a ventricular assist device or VAD that would hopefully keep her alive.

"The device will be able to replace heart function," said Dr. Park.

During the open-heart surgery Dr. Park implanted the device near Schrombeck'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.

Schrombeck's doctors thought maybe this device could buy her a year, perhaps two.

"Five years later she's still here," said Dr. Park.

"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...when I do something with grandchildren I am grateful," said Schrombeck.

Dr. Park says they're not sure how long patients can live on VADs. He suspects Schrombeck will have many more years. This technology is also used to keep heart patients alive while they wait for transplants.

For more information on the device, click on the following link: www.mayoclinic.org