ICD and LVAD lead to a better quality of life

U-M patient Theresa Sturgill shares her story

Theresa blogTheresa Sturgill is enjoying her life these days. She’s doing all the things she loves, including walking, shopping, even traveling to Wichita, Kansas, to visit her son, which is somewhat of a milestone for a woman who felt her life might be ending nine years ago.

Today, an ICD and LVAD — implantable cardioverter defibrillator and left ventricular assist device — are keeping her going strong.

An ICD provides immediate therapy for a life-threatening arrhythmia where the heart is beating too quickly or too slowly. ICDs continuously monitor heart rhythms and are programmed to deliver pacing impulses to restore the heart’s natural rhythm, which can, in some cases, avoid the need for a shock. If necessary, however, the ICD will deliver a shock to the heart.

LVADs work by pumping blood from the left ventricle (lower part of the heart) and moving it forward into the aorta, the main blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. LVADs assist the weakened heart muscle via a pump implanted inside the body.

Theresa’s story

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Theresa Sturgill with her son, Brett

Theresa was diagnosed with an enlarged heart at age 21 in 1975. Her condition was monitored for years and seemed to improve, with a reduction in the size of her heart and an eventual okay to become pregnant. Shortly after giving birth to a son at age 35, Theresa began having symptoms and discovered that her heart was again enlarged. Medication helped improve her condition for a time, while Theresa says she lived a very normal life.

Then, in 1997, her condition worsened to the point where University of Michigan cardiologists recommended an ICD to help keep her failing heart beating. Over the years, Theresa has had a total of three ICDs.

Two years ago, nearly 16 years after her first ICD, Theresa says her health began to deteriorate. “I thought I was going to die,” she recalls. The U-M CVC team recommended a HeartMate II LVAD, which was implanted by Dr. Matthew Romano.

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Theresa and her husband, Randy, with their niece, Shaleen

Today, Theresa and her husband, Randy, are living a full, fun life, including that recent trip to Kansas. Something as stressful as traveling with an LVAD was made very easy, the Sturgills say, thanks to U-M and all the planning they helped with in case of an emergency. “They gave us the contact information of the nearest LVAD hospital and made the staff there aware that we would be in the area. They were very good about that,” says Theresa, adding, “I’m back to normal now. Without the LVAD, I would have died.”


Take the next step:

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.