With no more options, the patient feels lucky to live thanks to a VAD
Preston Sporer was born with aortic stenosis, a condition that would define his life.
From an early age, he was unable to participate in any type of strenuous activity, including gym classes.
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“I knew my limits,” he said, recalling that shortness of breath and fatigue were part of his daily life.
This was only the beginning of what would eventually lead to a ventricular assist device, also known as a VAD, it has allowed the 50-year-old to do the things he loves, especially following his three-year-old grandson and volunteering with a group he calls ‘seniors with disabilities’.
From the beginning
As a young boy in the care of pediatricians, Sporer was medicated and underwent several heart-related treatments – all before he was 10 years old.
Over the years, he has learned to live with his symptoms, often going long periods without receiving medical attention.
In 2001, however, with his condition worsening and a new diagnosis of heart failure, he underwent a open heart aortic valve replacement procedure at a hospital near his home in Brighton, Michigan.
When symptoms returned in 2007, he turned to University of Michigan Health Frankel Cardiovascular Center, where he was first treated with medication.
“We wanted to do everything we could to avoid having another aortic valve surgery,” Sporer said.
Although the drugs helped him for a while, he again needed a open aortic valve replacement procedure, followed in 2019 by a minimally invasive transcatheter aortic valve replacement, also known as TAVR, procedure. With a TAVR, patients can avoid open surgery with faster recovery and a shorter hospital stay.
How a VAD works
For the retired bricklayer, however, a more aggressive solution would be the next step. Sporer would need a ventricular assist device.
A VAD helps pump blood from the left ventricle (the lower left chamber of the heart) into the aorta, the main vessel that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Implanted inside the body, the pump is connected to a cord, or “transmission”, which exits through a small site in the abdomen. The transmission is connected to a small computer, called the controller, which is attached to the batteries and operates the pump. The controller is worn by the patient in a carrier (a specially designed vest, shoulder bag or fanny pack), close to the body.
The device can be used in two ways: as a gateway to heart transplantation in patients who qualify for transplantation but need temporary support to survive until a donor heart becomes available, or as destination therapy for patients with advanced heart failure who may not be eligible for heart transplantation. As a destination therapy, VADs are permanently implanted as a long-term support to prolong a patient’s life.
Sporer’s VAD would be considered destination therapy because other conditions, including diabetes and esophageal cancer, made him ineligible for a heart transplant.
No easy decision
But his decision for a VAD was not easy.
“I was terrified,” he admits, “The idea was so scary, but at that moment I couldn’t even walk across the room because my breathing was so bad.”
Sporer turned to the resources of Frankel CVC to help with his decision, including medical assistants Angela Rose, PA-C, and Kevin Knott, PA-C, social workers and other VAD patients who have shared honest information about life with the device, including the benefits and the risks.
On March 3, Sporer underwent surgery to implant his ventricular assist device. “I did very well,” he said, noting that he was able to leave the hospital in 13 days – before the typical 18 days for most patients.
“Sir. Sporer’s fighting spirit and curiosity about how VAD works is what helped him get home to his family so quickly,” Knott said.
“The patient and his wife – his primary caregiver – picked up on things about living with a VAD very quickly,” Rose added.
Education is the key
The Frankel CVC VAD team offers training from dedicated healthcare professionals and VAD coordinators, as well as support from social workers and other VAD patients.
“Our VAD coordinators provide the majority of post-VAD education and ensure that patients and their caregivers understand all aspects of living with a VAD – from changing batteries and monitoring alarms to taking care of the transmission site and ensuring that their home has the proper electrical outlets,” Rosé said.
A multidisciplinary VAD team is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to provide comprehensive patient care. “We make sure all of our patients’ questions are answered and talk to them about the different scenarios they may encounter,” Rose said.
“We educate patients and their caregivers on all aspects of their VAD, including how it works, how to change batteries, what alarms indicate, how to troubleshoot alarms, and how to perform sterile dressing changes at the discharge site. transmission,” said VAD Coordinator Rená Lucier, inf.
Living with a VAD
Today, Sporer couldn’t be more grateful for his ventricular assist device and increased energy level.
“I need it for my volunteer work with adults with disabilities through Livingston County Special Ministries,” he said, adding that his wife, Brook, is the program supervisor.
For everyone involved, Sporer’s ventricular assist device is a win-win as he uses his newfound energy and health to help improve the lives of others less fortunate.
And he didn’t want it any other way, saying, “Giving my time is the best medicine there is.”