At a Glance:
Steve, a 53-year-old key account manager for Motorola Solutions, has always been conscientious about his heart health because high cholesterol and heart disease both run in his family. His mother has a pacemaker, and his nephew had a heart transplant four years ago. Because of his risk factors, Steve has been seeing a cardiologist regularly since the mid-90s and taking medication to control his cholesterol.
In 2005, Steve was diagnosed with left ventricular hypertrophy, enlargement of the left ventricle wall, and cardiomyopathy, a weakening of the heart muscle. As his conditions worsened, Steve began having trouble breathing. On sales trips, he had to stop to catch his breath while walking from one gate to another at the airport. He gradually gave up tennis, then surfing, then golf. His lungs were constantly filling with fluid.
“I went to the hospital several times early in 2014,” said Steve. “Because I couldn’t breathe, I was afraid that if I went to sleep, I wouldn’t wake up.”
It was during one of those hospital stays that Steve suffered sudden cardiac arrest and fell into a coma. “The hospital called my wife and told her, ‘You may want to come and say goodbye to him,’” he said.
Steve bought a jogging stroller to carry his Freedom Driver so that he could walk on the sand toward the ocean waves.
To minimize any brain injury from the heart attack, doctors used therapeutic hypothermia to reduce Steve’s body temperature by five degrees. He revived April 3 and was taken by ambulance to Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute two days later.
Steve had already made several visits to a cardiologist at the Los Angeles hospital as part of his efforts to stay ahead of the effects of heart disease. Now, he would depend on surgeons to save his life. Tests showed that a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) would not be adequate because Steve’s right ventricle was also failing. With no matching donor heart immediately available, he consented to his surgeons’ recommendation that he receive the SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart (TAH).
After recovering from the implant surgery and becoming clinically stable, Steve was switched to the Freedom® Portable Driver, which gave him increased mobility and allowed him to be discharged from the hospital to wait for his matching donor heart at home.
Steve said one of the best things about returning home was being able to sleep in his own bed. “Near the end of my hospital stay I got cranky because I couldn’t sleep,” he said. “When I got home, I could sleep because [hospital staff] weren’t poking me. I loved that.”
While waiting for his matching donor heart, Steve walked several miles a day, visited the beach, went shopping and spent time with his 18-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter. “It’s nice to be home with my family,” he said. “It is a blessing to see my kids every day. I’m looking forward to getting my donor heart transplant.”
And get his transplant he did. After 358 days of support with the SynCardia TAH, Steve got the call that a matching donor heart was available.
“I was scared, but it was surreal that it was actually happening,” Steve said. “I could feel I reached the end game of getting a heart transplant.”
Since his transplant, Steve has become a volunteer ambassador at Cedars-Sinai, talking with people who are in need of a heart transplant or the TAH.
“This is something that can truly help you,” Steve said. “If it hadn’t been for the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart, I wouldn’t be here today.”