MedWatch Today: Man Stays Alive with LVAD, While Waiting for Heart Transplant

Med Watch Today

Congestive heart failure occurs when your heart muscle doesn’t pump blood as well as it should. For Juan Iniguez, congestive heart failure was the difference between life and death. The 29-year old ultimately needed a heart transplant, but it was the LVAD, or left ventricular assist device that was implanted at Fresno Heart & Surgical Hospital that helped him stay alive while he waited for his new heart.

It’s been an emotional journey since Juan and Dr. Richard Kiel first met. Juan was diagnosed in 2013 with congestive heart failure at only 21 years old.

“I ended up going to UCSF and UCSF sent me here to Fresno Heart with Dr. Kiel and Dr. Kiel took over my healthcare,” explained Juan.

Dr. Kiel is the Co-Medical Director for heart failure at Community Medical Centers.

He said, “Heart failure is basically, it’s for whatever reason, it’s a problem with the heart function, a problem with the structure of the heart, but for whatever reason the heart can’t get the body the oxygen that it requires.”

Even when Juan was on aggressive medication, his health was getting progressively worse. Juan needed a heart transplant, but wait times for a suitable donor can be up to a year and nationally about 300 people a year die while waiting for a heart transplant. While Juan waited for a suitable donor, Dr. Kiel explains his next plan of action.

“We decided that using the left ventricular assist device as sort of a bridge to get him to the point where he would be capable of really succeeded with transplant was decided upon,” said Dr. Kiel.

Left ventricular assist device is also known as LVAD. They’re often called a “bridge to transplant”.

Juan said, “The LVAD is pretty much an implanted pump that’s pretty much bypasses the left ventricle and pumps your blood from the left side of your heart up to your aorta.”

Dr. Shamsuddin Khwaja was Juan’s surgeon, and he’s also the Director of the Cardiothoracic Surgery Program at Community Medical Centers.

“Heart failure is one of the leading causes of hospitalizations, and advanced heart failure is not found in Central valley other than with our program,” said Dr. Khwaja.

The congestive heart failure clinic with LVAD placement is the only one of its kind in the Central Valley. Juan said the LVAD gave him a second chance at life while he awaited his heart transplant surgery.

This past february, Juan underwent heart transplant surgery in San Francisco. He said the LVAD was the bridge that gave him another chance at life – without it, he wouldn’t be here.

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