Hollywood Man Gets Second Chance At Life With Ventricular Assist Device

Ken had his first heart attack at age 29. In the years that followed, he suffered a stroke and a second heart attack. At age 52—after spending the past two and a half years bedridden—Ken was rushed to Memorial Regional Hospital in January, when his lungs filled up with fluid.

It was the beginning of a second chance at life.

"Luckily in January, we were able to meet (Enrique-Gongora-Md and Ioana-Dumitru-MD), and they said I would need an LVAD," Ken says.

An LVAD, or left ventricular assist device, is a mechanical pump that is surgically placed inside the heart to keep blood flowing from the heart to the body, supplying blood to the vital organs, said Enrique Gongora, MD, Medical Director of the Adult Cardiac Surgical Transplant Program at Memorial Cardiac and Vascular Institute (MCVI).

Dr. Gongora surgically implanted two LVADs in Ken's heart. When the first device implanted in February became occluded with a blood clot, he replaced it with a new LVAD in April.

"He gave me my life back," says Ken. "The whole Memorial staff is unbelievable. I can't thank them enough. The whole staff has been like family. The doctors have been so close, making sure you're OK, putting their trips on hold for you, calling you and checking on you. It's just amazing. All these years, in and out of hospitals, it's been nothing like this."

"When somebody pursues implantation of an LVAD, it's done primarily for improving quality as well as quantity of life," says Dr. Dumitru, who noted how well Ken is doing since his LVAD surgeries. "It has given him not only time back with the family-he goes out, he visits other patients and gives them hope about getting better."

Five months after his first LVAD surgery, Ken had lost about 70 pounds.

"I enjoy going to rehab. I enjoy exercising. I enjoy getting stronger," says Ken, recalling how different his life is today from the years he spent unable to get out of bed. "We're able to go to some restaurants. We're going to be able to see my son soon. It just keeps getting better and better every week."

He also received some news.

"Great news! I'm on the transplant list for a new heart, because of the great work of the doctors, the nurses, the whole Memorial Hospital... and because of rehab," Ken says. "It's because of them. If it wasn't for the LVAD, I wouldn't be here."

Memorial Regional Hospital, a leading provider of adult cardiac services in Florida, earned in 2014 The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval for its ventricular assist device (VAD) destination therapy program, offered through its Memorial Cardiac and Vascular Institute.

Memorial Regional Hospital is the first hospital in Broward County to receive this coveted accreditation and only one of two programs now serving the South Florida community. 

In early 2014, the flagship hospital of the Memorial Healthcare System underwent a rigorous two-day, on-site review and demonstrated full compliance with the Joint Commission’s national standards for disease specific care quality and safety, obtaining approval without receiving any recommendations for improvement. 

Destination therapy VADs are implanted in patients with refractory heart failure who are not eligible for a heart transplant. VADs have been proven to dramatically improve the long term survival and the quality of life of end stage heart failure patients, said Ioana Dumitru, MD, Medical Director of Adult Cardiac Transplant, Heart Failure and Cardiomyopathy at MCVI.

The full spectrum of services include heart transplant, ventricular assist device, electrophysiology, vascular surgery, congenital heart disease and transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) to name a few – all components of a Total Heart Care program.

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