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Meet the longest living HeartMate II LVAD recipient

David Pierce shares his journey

Judy and David Pierce enjoy the company of their granddaughters.

Judy and David Pierce enjoy the company of their granddaughters.

Over the last 10 years, left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) have proved to be a viable alternative to heart transplants. The procedure gives patients a chance to experience a better overall quality of life, especially those who are not candidates for heart transplant.

The University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center is home to one of the world’s largest and most experienced LVAD programs. In fact, U-M’s LVAD program has successfully implanted more than 580 long-term devices in patients.

One man’s journey with the HeartMate II LVAD

One of those is David Pierce, who has the distinguished recognition as being the longest living HeartMate II LVAD patient in the U.S. David received his first LVAD on May 26, 2004, at the age of 52. Today, he is living a happy, healthy life — and spending precious time with his family.

David’s heart issues began when with a heart attack at age 41. Eleven years later, he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. “I couldn’t walk more than 15 feet without stopping,” he says.  Today, however, David is a “new man,” and credits Francis D. Pagani, M.D., Ph.D., a cardiac surgeon and director of the U-M Center for Circulatory Support, who implanted his LVAD 10 years ago.

David says he was confident an LVAD would help improve his quality of life and had “complete trust in Dr. Pagani.” David’s wife, Judy, clearly remembers the morning of surgery 10 years ago, saying, “David went in with cold feet and came out with warm feet and a new outlook on life,” she says.

Adjusting to a new normal

These days, David has adapted to a new normal that has become his regular routine living with an LVAD. “That’s just the way it is,” he says, adding that he and Judy “have it down to a science.” His routine involves plugging the LVAD into a base unit at night so the couple can be sure to hear potential warning sounds from a monitor. “We have become experts at interpreting any beeps from the monitor,” Judy says. Airline travel requires special procedures at the check-in, and all equipment must accompany David in the airplane cabin, just as a precaution.

A family affair

David’s protocol has become a family affair, with his thee sons learning as much as their parents about how to deal with any potential LVAD issues. Even David’s four young granddaughters are part of the program, retrieving new batteries for grandpa’s equipment when needed.

And while the batteries keep David’s LVAD going, he credits the doctors at U-M for giving him a chance for a better life and, most of all, for the opportunity to be around to watch his granddaughters grow up.

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