Alert
Close

Earn Double Rewards Points: Take the AARP Social Security True/False Quiz

HIGHLIGHTS

Open

2014 NATIONAL EVENT

Health & Wellness
AARP Auto Buying Program

Download the ipad App

AARP-iPad-ePub-app

DRIVER SAFETY

Piggy bank on the road - AARP Driver Safety

Take the new AARP Smart Driver Course!

Contests and
Sweeps

Safe Driving in 2014 Sweepstakes

Learn how AARP Driver Safety can help you stay safe—and enter for a chance to win $1,000. See official rules. 

KEEP BRAIN ACTIVE!

AARP Games - Play Now!

AARP BOOKS

Planning for Long-Term Care for Dummies

Get expert advice on planning for your own or a relative’s future care needs.

Webinars

Learn From the Experts

Sign up now for an upcoming webinar or find materials from a past session.

Learning centers

Get smart strategies for managing health conditions.

 

Arthritis

Heart Disease

Diabetes

Most Popular

Viewed

share your thoughts

What does the health care law mean to you? Your story is important. We read and learn from every story and it helps us in our educational efforts. We may even use your comments (with permission) to brief legislators, inspire readers and more. Please share your story with us. Do

Miracle Heart Pump

Implant gives dying patients new life

FDA approves small mechanical heart pump LVAD for those awaiting transplants

Beverly Thurman was 'so sick, I was willing to do anything to feel well again.' She now feels 'marvelous.' — Photo by Maddie McGarvey

But many older heart failure patients aren't eligible for transplants because of complicating medical conditions. A heart pump may be the only option. "Everything was going down quickly," Beverly Thurman, 64, recalls. After years of progressive heart disease, her kidneys and other organs, starved for blood, were beginning to fail. Because she had antibodies in her bloodstream that would attack foreign tissue, a heart transplant wasn't an option. When doctors at Ohio State University medical center suggested the heart pump, Thurman didn't hesitate. "I was so sick, I was willing to do anything to feel well again."

Almost two years later, Thurman says she feels "marvelous." Barely able to walk before the pump was implanted, she's now taking brisk strolls through her Columbus neighborhood at one end of a leash, pulled along by her new puppy. She and her fiancé are planning a trip to Los Angeles. "Everything is just perfect."

Not all heart failure patients qualify for the device. Candidates must be healthy enough to withstand surgery and capable of managing the complex routines of charging the batteries and keeping the site where the wire connects through the abdomen sterile. But for those who qualify, the device can be life-changing. The tiny pump has proved so effective and reliable that many older patients who were once too sick to undergo surgery can go on to have hip replacements or other operations that further improve their quality of life.

To implant the pump, surgeons perform open-heart surgery. Recovery takes two weeks or more in the hospital. The wire that protrudes from the abdomen, connecting the pump to the controller and power source, must be carefully cleaned daily to prevent infection. Heart pump recipients can't swim and must be careful when taking a shower. The newest battery packs provide power for up to 14 hours — a big improvement over earlier models — allowing patients far more independence. Still, there's the reality of having to plan ahead, to make sure batteries are charged and a power source is available. And for older patients especially, the 1 1/2-pound batteries can be heavy to carry around.

But most recipients shrug off the inconveniences. "Sure, you've got a wire coming out of your gut, and batteries to worry about, and all that," says Morris. "I'm a Yankees fan, and someone once asked me if I felt as if my life was at the bottom of the ninth inning, two outs, bases loaded. The way I put it, my life is in extra innings. If I'd had my heart attack eight years ago, I wouldn't be alive. What can I be but grateful?"

Peter Jaret is is a freelance writer living in Petaluma, Calif.

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts

Processing

Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Woman trying on glasses in optometrists shop

Members save up to 60% on eye exams and 30% on glasses at JCPenney Optical.

Prescription medication spilling out of bottle

Members get a free Rx card from AARP® Prescription Discounts provided by Catamaran.

AngiesList

Members can save 25% to 45% on their Angie's List membership.

Caregiving walking

Caregiving can be a lonely journey, but AARP offers resources that can help.