During Heart Month, Deborah Heart and Lung Center celebrates its patients and the new lease on life given to those who suffer with critical heart issues. Patients like fifty-seven year old William “Bill” Bell, who never had a history of heart trouble, until six years ago when he woke up in bed with a sore throat.
The long-time forklift operator recalled: “I came home from work on a Friday night, and I woke up so cold with a bad sore throat.” The next day he got out of breath while cutting the lawn.
“I had no idea what was going on.” But soon Bill learned troubling news. He was in heart failure.
Heart failure according to cardiologist Kulpreet Barn, MD, Director of the Advanced Heart Failure Program at Deborah Heart and Lung Center, said that heart failure is exactly what it sounds like. “This occurs when your heart doesn’t pump enough blood. It can make you short of breath and tired. Things you do every day can become more difficult.”
Like many patients who are first diagnosed, Bill began a series of medications, and eventually got a defibrillator implanted.
“The defibrillator can make sure that patients with heart failure don’t die from sudden cardiac arrest,” said Dr. Barn “but it cannot ‘cure’ heart failure.”
It was some time before Bill finally met Dr. Barn and the heart failure team at Deborah. After visits to two more hospitals (one in North Jersey and one in South Jersey) brought on by Bill’s defibrillator going off and jolting him (“one time it knocked me off my feet and onto the floor”), he knew his condition was getting worse.
“I’m a young guy, but I have a bad heart,” he said. By now it was getting harder for Bill to work and to enjoy fishing, camping, and hiking. Just walking around was becoming too much for him. Finally, when no one else could help him, he came to Deborah.
“I met Dr. Barn and right away they put a temporary pump in my heart to help me out. Then they talked to me about getting an LVAD.”
An LVAD, or left ventricular assist device is an implanted pump that keeps the blood flowing for heart failure patients.
“Some patients get an LVAD while they are waiting for a heart transplant,” said Dr. Barn “and some patients who are not candidates for heart transplant choose this as a permanent long-term solution when their heart is failing, making an LVAD a life-saving device.”
“I had no choice,” said Bill. “I couldn’t walk and my breathing was getting harder.” So in October of last year he had the surgery. It was a long three weeks and then Bill turned a corner.
“I’ve been to hell and back, but now everyone is really, really happy with my progress.”
A lot of that progress came from his acute care post-operative physical therapy with therapist Susann Ferozan.
“I give the rehab team a lot of credit,” said Dr. Barn. “We do these amazing surgeries, but it is the work of Bill with his therapist that got him back on his feet.”
Added Susann: “I give Bill a ton of credit. This operation is not always an easy recovery, but he was a great, compliant patient willing to listen to all my input. He is the example that medicine adds days to a patient’s life, but physical therapy adds life to a patient’s days.”
“Dr. Barn told me it’s OK to do what I want now,” said Bill. “He told me not to go crazy, but I can’t wait till the weather gets nicer and my girlfriend and I can go hiking again, and I can finally go back to fishing. I am so thankful to Deborah for giving me a second chance.”
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