LVAD patient pays it forward

Educating patients and first responders is his mission

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Furman Dillard wants to educate others about LVADs, using his own LVAD to give first-hand demonstrations.

Furman Dillard of Ann Arbor is thankful to the U-M Frankel Cardiovascular team for giving him a second chance at life.

Furman’s heart issues began in 2000 when he was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy. His doctor recommended he be seen at the Frankel CVC, where it was determined he needed a defibrillator due to an irregular heartbeat. Then, in 2010, Furman suffered a series of strokes and, ultimately, organ failure. His only option was a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), which was implanted by Dr. Francis Pagani in 2012. Since the surgery, Furman is walking, working out, cooking and feeling fortunate to be alive.

But that’s not all …

A firm believer in paying it forward, he’s doing just that by supporting and educating new LVAD patients at U-M — all out of the goodness of his heart. He’s also training first responders and firefighters throughout the area, who he says need to understand the unique requirements of an LVAD patient in an emergency medical situation. During his training sessions, Furman demonstrates how an LVAD works and how to treat a person who is equipped with an LVAD in case of an emergency.

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U-M LVAD patient Furman Dillard shows Ann Arbor firefighters and first responders how his LVAD operates.

Furman says another LVAD patient who was committed to educating others inspired him. Now, he’s following in the Pennsylvania man’s footsteps and making a difference for LVAD patients in the Ann Arbor area.

“I give hands-on training and let firefighters and first responders know what to expect when treating an LVAD patient. I show them the actual device, the batteries and the controller. If the device doesn’t have power, the person has no pulse but a mechanical whirling sound can be heard,” Furman says. He lets those he’s training listen to his own LVAD and points out that if a patient’s clothing needs to be cut away, responders must be careful not to cut the LVAD power cord.

“Responders need to be aware of all this,” Furman says, noting that patients and medical responders should understand the technology and hardware associated with an LVAD. “Knowledge is power.”

Furman credits the LVAD coordinator at U-M with teaching him about his own LVAD, including what to expect during travel and how to charge the batteries and care for the hardware. And he, in turn, is committed to helping others learn.

With nine children, 27 grandchildren and seven great grandchildren, Furman isn’t ready to leave this world. “I have plenty to do,” he says. And topping that list is his volunteer work to educate new LVAD patients, first responders and firefighters throughout the area.”

“Dr. Pagani and his team knew what they were doing. I was confident I would get better with their care. Now, I feel fortunate to be able to help other LVAD patients,” Furman says. And those patients are fortunate to have this dedicated man looking out for them.

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The 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.