Surprised by a sudden shortness of breath and trouble sleeping, 38-year-old John Antal chalked it up to allergies, but went to see his doctor anyway. The diagnosis blindsided him — abnormal heart muscle and function due to an enlarged heart.
Luckily, he was referred to the Thomas R. Reilly Heart Success Program at Gagnon Cardiovascular Institute, led by Medical Director Marc Goldschmidt, MD, who swiftly assessed Mr. Antal’s condition as dire.
“There was no in-between,” says Mr. Antal. “My condition went downhill really fast.”
After evaluation, he was admitted into the Louise Washington Trust Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit. To make matters worse, both his left and right ventricles were problematic, precluding the ability to implant a left ventricular assist device (LVAD).
James P. Slater, MD, surgical director, Mechanical Circulatory Support Program, and members of the Heart Success team placed an Impella, a small motor the size of a pencil eraser, in his right ventricle that forced blood flow into the left ventricle and throughout his body.
“We help heart failure patients realize that it’s not the end of the road,” says Dr. Slater. “They have treatment options. Their experience can become a heart success story.”
After about a week of letting the Impella do its job, Mr. Antal’s heart was ready for the LVAD implant. The procedure and recovery were textbook perfect.
Even the daily bandage changes went smoothly thanks to Linda Suplicki, APN, a member of the Heart Success team who had developed a wound dressing kit that makes it easier for caregivers to wrap a better-fitting bandage. It kept Mr. Antal infection-free, even after returning home.
“I had to find my new normal, but the Heart Success team made me realize that my circumstances were not a death sentence,” says Mr. Antal, who received his LVAD in August 2015.
Mr. Antal is waiting for a donor heart and the LVAD has afforded him that time. He still checks in with Heart Success every three months. What stands out most to him is the warmth of all of the doctors, nurses and staff here.
“When I was in the hospital, at Gagnon, I was on three different floors and the nurses from my previous floor would make the effort to come and visit me after I moved,” he says. “That really stayed with me. You could tell they were taking a personal interest in me, and that’s a good feeling.”