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Heart assist device can be 'life-changing'

When conventional heart treatments no longer provide a good option, people in our region may benefit from a device once reserved only for heart transplant patients.

The LVAD (left ventricular assist device) is available at Baptist Health Paducah; and it’s a real life-saver, according to Bob Gott, 72, of Vienna, Ill. 

Gott was implanted with an LVAD at Baptist Health when his heart problems became too serious for other treatments. 

“When I wanted to do something on the farm, I was always out of breath or didn’t have the strength to do it,” said Gott, who already had a pacemaker and defibrillator implanted a decade ago. “At my age, a heart transplant was out of the question.”

Cardiologist Kenneth Ford, M.D., implanted the LVAD in Gott to help his heart send blood throughout his system. An LVAD acts much like an implanted artificial heart, with patients wearing battery packs in a vest or belt to power the LVAD during the day and hooking up to a battery charger at night while they sleep.

“The FDA decided to approve this for permanent use because these patients were actually doing better than the transplant patients in some cases,” Dr. Ford said. “For (Gott), it’s been a real life-changing event where he can do whatever he wants to now.”

The device pumps 90 percent of Gott’s blood because his heart only pumps about 10 percent.

“It’s really, really helped me because I can get out and do anything I want to,” Gott said. “How do thank somebody for saving your life?”

For questions about the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, phone the Baptist Health Chest Pain and Stroke Hotline at 1.800.575.1911.