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What is an LVAD? and 5 Things You will want to know

Updated: Nov 4

This article is not intended to be medical advice, it is 100% based off my personal experience and research over the last 3 years. I am not a medical professional, I simply want to share some of the things I have learned. It is important for you the reader to know that our experiences will likely differ to some degree.


An LVAD otherwise know as a Left Ventricular Assist Device is a pump surgically implanted into a patients heart. This device is for people with end stage or severe forms of heart failure. The LVAD is also implanted plan and hopes of being bridge therapy to a heart transplant. Patients do have to go through a process to qualify to be put on the transplant list which may seem like a no-brainer but I know it came as a surprise to our family as we went through all of this along side my dad, so it is worth saying.


Backstory:

In September of 2016 my dad had a LVAD implanted on his heart to help increase blood flow through the left ventricle of his heart. In his case his heart started failing and he developed congestive heart failure about 24 years ago when I was 3. The doctors at that time told him he had 3 years tops and to make the best of it. Then after 20 years of beating the odds, and getting a pacemaker along the way, he went through a few heart attacks in which his implanted defibrillator shocked him back to life!


Think about that for a second though, the doctors literally told him to retire, and as crass as it sounds the doctors basically gave him a choice of life or death. Or more eloquently, the choice of his health continuing to quickly deteriorate more and him passing away. or a chance at more life, possible bridge to transplant, and a better quality of life along the way.


It has been a tough journey for my family, myself and uh..duh..my dad but I think we are all learning to roll with the punches more and are creating more meaningful memories as a result. I hope to go into all of the interpersonal, family dynamic and relationship type stuff in other posts though!


1) The LVAD can be implanted with other devices


In my dad's case this other device is a pace maker/defibrillator that he has had for about a decade. In our experience this has not caused any further complications. You will need to work with your specialized healthcare provider to have the pace maker tuned to work with the LVAD.


2) No More baths, swimming, and showers will need to be taken carefully!


The LVAD is essentially a portable life support device that provides the patient with more independence. With this independence comes some limitations, the patient will have a drive line that comes out of their abdomen and connects to the computer that runs the pump, controls the blood flow and connects to the portable batteries. With some time the drive line heals, however it never fully closes and will need to be covered with a water proof and water tight bandage for showers.


In addition the computer and battery will need to be inclosed in a special shower bag that will need to be provided by your doctor.


3) The vest! A fun and Functional fashion statement


As you can imagine having a drive line 2 batteries and a computer attached to your abdomen, comes with a few moving pieces. Some people have used modified fishing vests, and in my dads case my mom sewed a few variations. Some were made of thin, stretchy sweat wicking fabric that allowed the LVAD to be hidden. Other vests she made were made of denim or nicer fabric that allowed them to create a more put together look.


4) Bridge Therapy

In the journey with an LVAD, bridge therapy plays a crucial role in providing patients with a chance at a better quality of life and a potential bridge to a heart transplant.


Bridge Therapy refers to the use, in this case, of an LVAD as a temporary solution for patients with severe heart failure until a suitable heart transplant becomes available. Benefits of an LVAD:

  • Improved heart function: The LVAD helps the heart pump blood effectively, alleviating symptoms of heart failure and improving overall well-being.

  • Enhanced quality of life: By restoring blood flow and reducing symptoms, patients can engage in daily activities with greater independence and comfort.

  • Time to wait for a transplant: The LVAD serves as a lifeline while patients await a suitable donor heart for transplantation.


5) Fitness and Rehabilitation

Maintaining physical fitness is both crucial and more difficult for LVAD patients as it can positively impact overall health, recovery, and potential transplant eligibility, however their bodies have gone through a huge trauma to the road to recovery is going to be difficult!

  • Physical therapy and exercise: Under the guidance of the patients specialized team, patients can engage in tailored exercise programs and rehabilitation to build strength, endurance, and cardiovascular fitness. While also learning to complete daily activities with a new extension of their body.

  • Benefits of fitness: Improved heart health. Regular exercise can strengthen the heart, potentially improving its condition and function.

  • Enhanced recovery: Physical activity aids in the recovery process, facilitating a smoother transition to transplant surgery if deemed necessary.

  • Increased transplant eligibility: Being in better physical condition can improve the likelihood of being placed on the transplant list.

The journey with an LVAD is a challenging one, but it can also provide patients with precious time and a better quality of life while they pursue a transplant or other treatment prescribed by their doctors.


Remember, the information shared in this article is based on personal experience and research, and everyone's experience may vary. It's crucial to consult with specialized healthcare professionals for personalized guidance and care.


in future article I will explain the importance understanding an LVADs impact on home electricity usage, as well as the need for prophylactic antibiotics for dental procedures. End-of-life considerations and changes in body image. These are all part of the LVAD journey that should be addressed with sensitivity and support.


Ultimately, the goal of the LVAD is to provide patients with more time for precious moments with loved ones. Despite the challenges, embracing laughter, tears, and even annoyance with one another can create meaningful memories and make the journey worthwhile.


Remember to seek professional medical advice, work closely with your healthcare team, and stay informed about the latest advancements in LVAD technology. With the right support, resilience, and appreciation for life, you can navigate this path with strength, courage, and a touch of your unique personality.


This procedure is no walk in the park, but can provide people with what we all wish we had more of- time. More time to laugh, cry and be annoyed with one another! It's all we really want right?

LVAD Heart Diagram Implantation Pump
LVAD Diagram

#LVAD #HeartDisease #HealthTechnology

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