Small device, big help for women's hearts

January 29, 2008 6:54:13 AM PST
A new breakthrough in the fight against heart failure in women. A scaled-down heart assistance device is saving lives.

5.3 million Americans live with heart failure, a chronic condition that starves the heart of blood. Many are women, and up til now, a heart transplant has been the only cure. But a new, cutting-edge device that could help them survive.

From the outside, Salina Gonzales looks pretty much like any other shopper. It's what's going inside her body that's so remarkable.

A revolutionary electric pump, spinning at 10-thousand rotations a minute- keeps blood flowing through her body. It's what kept her alive..ever since her heart grew dangerously weak more than a year ago.

Gonzales says, 'It was very difficult. I couldn't walk two steps without being severely short of breath."

Dr. Robert Bogaev, of the Texas Heart Institute says bluntly, "She was dying from heart failure. She probably had thirty days to live."

Gonzales need a heart transplant. The challenge..how to keep her alive until a donor could be found.

A man in this situation would have a standard pump implanted to help his heart. But it's too big and heavy...to fit in most women. So doctors asked Gonzales to test this new, experimental model..at one third the size and weight.

It is implanted just below the heart, with the power line coming out the side of the body. It goes down to a mini-computer and power pack.

Gonzales says she can;t even feel the pump in place.

Dr. Bud Frazier of the Texas Heart Institute says, "It can address so many people suffering premature death becasue of heart failure that nothing else can be done for."

Within three months, Gonzales was gaining strength and stamina. By six months, she had returned to a normal life. Teaching 2nd grade class..caring for her 4 year old son...and excercising, avidly. All on that state-of-the-art pump. Then at a checkup a few moths ago..even better news.

"We saw by turning the pump down that her heart had recovered, Dr. Bogaev explains. "And in rare cases we have seen this. That by resting the heart, the heart function can improve."

Gonzales says is elated, "I was filled with so much joy. so much happiness."

Doctors now plan to remove the pump this spring. She no longer needs a transplant. Her own heart should be strong enough..to pump on its own."


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