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Playing a new tune after heart failure and heart transplant (VIDEO)

Scot Cannell shares his journey through heart failure at U-M

Band teacher Scot Cannell, 50, and his cardiologists at the University of Michigan would come up with a solution at each low point in treating his heart disease:  an implantable cardiac defibrillator to keep his heart rhythm in check, then a left ventricular assist device to support his weakened heart.

In life and in Cannell’s world of music, hitting the high notes often takes hard work. Three years after being diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, Cannell’s best option for living was a heart transplant.

“I had no family history of heart disease and I found myself in need of a new heart,” says Cannell, of Saline, Mich., a husband and father of three. “I dealt with it all with great support and humor whenever we could.

“The scariest part was hearing during the transplant evaluation that I had end stage heart failure. A nurse could see it upset me and she put a hand on my shoulder and told me, ‘End stage heart disease is just what it’s called. It doesn’t mean the end is here.’ ”

Scot Cannell blog

Scot Cannell, a trumpet player and instructor at Saline High School, plays on after several procedures and finally a heart transplant in 2012.

At Saline High School, Cannell instructs nearly 250 students in four different groups — freshmen band, symphonic band, wind ensemble and marching band. He’s a trumpet player.

Although he has a degree in music education from Eastern Michigan University, music would not become a full-time professional focus until after he retired early from his 25-year career in Washtenaw County government because of health issues.

Signs of heart trouble

About six months of fatigue and a nagging cough were signs of a serious heart problem. A treadmill test and echocardiogram in February 2009 confirmed cardiomyopathy. He was put on medication but eventually Cannell and cardiologists Drs. Keith Aaronson and Eric Good decided he should also receive an ICD.

“I’m glad I took the option because that was (implanted) in August and in February, while shoveling snow, I suffered ventricular tachycardia and my ICD fired,” says Cannell. “A neighbor found me lying on the porch and called for help.”

The small battery-powered ICD is programmed to detect and correct life threatening abnormal heart rhythms, like ventricular tachycardia  Later he developed VT storm, with 13 episodes of VT in half an hour, each successfully treated by his ICD.

After seven weeks of waiting in the hospital for a new heart, he was implanted with an LVAD at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center. It was August 2011, two years to the day after getting the ICD. He felt better with the LVAD that pumped in a way his heart no longer could, and on Good Friday 2012, he learned that a donor heart was available.

“It couldn’t have been more perfect,” he says of the holiday weekend when all his daughters were already coming home.

Wife Jackie was joined by daughters, Jennifer, an EMU music therapy graduate; Samantha, an EMT in school at Central Michigan University and Emily, a zoology major at Michigan State University, as the family waited for Cannell to come through the transformative heart transplant surgery at the U-M.

“I feel so fortunate to be able to have been involved with the Cardiovascular Center,” says Cannell, “Today I’m really conscious of my health. I try to stay healthy, not only for myself, but I owe that to my donor. To take good care of myself and my new heart.”

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Frankel-informal-vertical-sigThe University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is a top-ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit our website at umcvc.org.