Faced with sudden heart failure, Loren Vinal’s life has been at risk since last year.
The former ice hockey-playing-guitarist, a title given to him by friends and family, is in need of a heart transplant but is also the first person in the country to receive a next-generation heart pump in a minimally invasive surgery at Rochester’s Strong Memorial Hospital.
The HeartMate 3 supports heart function and can be a bridge to a subsequent heart transplant. It’s a left ventricular assist device helping the heart pump blood to the body.
The mostly titanium pump contains an electric motor which is the driving force that provides blood flow similar to a healthy heart.
The minimally invasive approach allows surgeons to avoid opening the sternum – or breast bone – to implant it.
“Patients can go back to activities of daily living sooner than patients that have their whole sternum open,” Dr. Igor Gosev, a doctor of Vinal’s and a UR Medicine cardiac surgeon, said.
Dr. Jeffrey Alexis, the director of UR Medicine’s VAD program, says it can prevent many symptoms.
“The hope is that we’ll be able to see fewer of the complications such as pain and infections that may deter patients in their post operative course,” Dr. Alexis said.
It is also expected to improve recovery from the eventual heart transplant operation, and instead of waiting in a hospital bed for a new heart, Vinal can enjoy time at home with loved ones, like his girlfriend Sandy, in the meantime.
“I just missed being home,” Vinal said. “It’s tough living in a hospital. I was grateful that Strong was willing to have me there waiting for the transplant, but on the flip side, I think everybody misses being home.”
Vinal didn’t know many details going into his surgery and he said he found out two days later that he was the first in the nation to receive this type of care.