Northeast Phila. woman benefits from heart device

September 4, 2013 4:25:22 PM PDT
A young woman from Northeast Philadelphia is getting much needed help from new medical technology.

Right now, Rosemarie Jordan is waiting for a heart transplant. But a new device is buying her time. And like a lot of technology, these devices are getting smaller.

The 29-year-old Jordan has spent most of her life dealing with heart problems.

After a childhood heart murmur, she developed heart failure at age 18.

A defibrillator in her chest shocks her heart when the rhythm falters.

She says it has fired twice, giving her quite a jolt.

"It's kind of like, someone's punching you in your back," she says.

"Because of my small size, it hit me even harder, I guess," she continued.

Earlier this year, after Rosemarie had a miscarriage, she developed peripartum cardiomyopathy, a weakening of the heart muscle.

Her cardiologist, Dr. Rene Alvarez of Temple University Hospital, says the condition is rare, but occurs more often with African-American and Hispanic women. Doctors don't know why.

"Normally about 65 to 70% of the heart's blood volume is ejected with every beat," says Alvarez.

"Hers is about 5 to 10%, and that's at rest," he noted.

Rosemarie went on the transplant waiting list.

To be strong enough for surgery, the Temple doctors said she would need a mechanical device to help her own heart.

The most common one is the HeartMate II - it's about 4 inches long, and looks similar to a short stretch of pipe.

Former Vice-President Dick Cheney had one for nearly 2 years before he got a transplant.

Dr. T. Sloane Guy, describes how they work: "We place this device into the apex of the heart, and we attach this to the aorta. It essentially takes blood out of the heart and pumps it into the body."

But because of Rosemarie's petite size, the Temple doctors went to a 'HeartWare' device - something from the 'next generation' of pumps - small enough to fit in her hand.

She was wheeled into the operating room for the 90-minute procedure.

The 'HeartWare' pump is newly-approved in the U-S, however, it's been used in thousands of patients worldwide.

A line connects the pump to a battery pack outside the body.

As with any heart assist device, the main complications are blood clots, infections, and bleeding, but there's much less bleeding with smaller devices.

It also gives patients the chance to live a fairly normal life, often for the first time in years.

"If I have something that's going to keep me energetic and keep me going, i'm all for it," says Rosemarie.

Rosemarie is doing well, starting to regain her strength, and looking forward to going home.

She loves to dance, something doctors say should be able to do on the HeartWare.

Doctors at Temple say even smaller pumps are in the works.

The hope is to use them earlier so people don't get too sick while waiting for a transplant.

And although they're used as a temporary bridge, doctors also want to use them longer-term, especially since there is always a shortage of donated hearts.


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