It’s always inspiring and uplifting to see the transformations that rapidly evolving medical technologies can make possible in people’s lives. Because February is National Heart Health Month, what better occasion to showcase some of these life-saving impacts that our heart care facility has been able to achieve. Former Ascension Seton Heart patients Chuck Hill and Steven Breneman know firsthand the true value of receiving a second chance at life thanks to advancements in medicine and the specialists to whom they entrust their care.
Chuck’s Battle with Advanced Heart Disease
Prior to seeking help from Ascension Seton Medical Center, Chuck says he’d had so much trouble breathing that he had to sleep in a chair every night. But after enduring three trips to the emergency room within two days, he knew this was more than just a sleeping problem. When Dr. Ernest Haeusslein, director of Ascension Seton Heart Specialty Care and Transplant Center, met him, Chuck was critically ill and suffering from organ failure. Working quickly and efficiently, Dr. Haeusslein gave Chuck a second chance at life, in the form of a ventricular assist device (VAD).
A VAD is a small pump that supplements the pumping function of the heart to significantly increase blood flow throughout the body and to prevent future heart failure. VADs typically serve one of two purposes: “destination therapy” or a “bridge to transplant.” For those who cannot be considered as candidates for heart transplantation, a VAD can serve as destination therapy, allowing that person to live with a much higher quality of life with the implant. In Chuck’s case, however, his VAD is a bridge to transplant, meaning that he will live with the device only until a heart transplant becomes available.
Today, Chuck is thankful for the device and his improved quality of life. “The world is different,” he says. He no longer has to sleep in a chair, no longer experiences chest pain and he is looking forward to living a normal life and getting back on his motorcycle following a transplant.
Steven’s Recovery from Peripheral Artery Disease
Like Chuck, Steven began experiencing debilitating pain that interfered with his job and everyday life. When the pain, which was primarily in his legs, became so severe that it prevented him from working his usual 70 to 80 hours a week, Steven sought the help of a specialist at the Ascension Seton Heart Institute. After a close examination, interventional cardiologist Dr. Steven Gigliotti determined that Steven had severe blockages in arteries in both of his legs. Knowing that peripheral artery disease also often affects the heart, Dr. Gigliotti repaired blockages around Steven’s heart first, then turned his attention to the legs.
In a day procedure, Dr. Gigliotti was able to reopen two arteries, one in each leg, and put stents into place. Stents act as scaffolding for the artery, preventing it from collapsing in on itself again. Steven suffered no permanent heart damage and, because of the dedicated work of Dr. Gigliotti, he now lives a normal life, working as hard as ever.
Maintaining Great Heart Health
While it’s always important to keep an eye on your heart health, National Heart Health Month is a great time to take some healthy steps to helping your heart. Eating a balanced diet low in saturated fat and processed sugar, and making sure you’re getting adequate daily exercise are two of the main things you can do at home to better your heart health. Of course, if you are experiencing symptoms of heart disease, you should consult a heart specialist to discuss your options.