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Mike Tracy — Cardiomyopathy

Mike Tracy - LVAD Patient Success StoryThe Challenge: The Wait for a Heart Transplant

Mike Tracy — a father of four — needs a heart transplant. As a tall, strong man, his build and blood type could make his wait longer than others.

In 1999, severe shortness of breath led Mike to a cardiologist, who diagnosed him with cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease).

Cardiomyopathy causes the heart muscle to become large, thick, or stiff and can lead to heart failure.

For years, Mike managed his heart disease with medicine. He stayed active in his job and with his family.

He also got a defibrillator to keep his heart in rhythm and had surgery to remove extra heart tissue.

The Path to UPMC’s Advanced Heart Failure Center

By 2014, Mike felt exhausted at the end of each workday. He could barely walk up his steps at home and had put on weight quickly — all signs that his heart failure was no longer under control.

Mike’s cardiologist referred him to Michael Mathier, MD, at the UPMC Advanced Heart Failure Center.

Tests showed that Mike’s heart was almost double the normal size, but his heart function was very low.

Dr. Mathier urged Mike to join the heart transplant list and consulted with Robert Kormos, MD, director of UPMC’s Artificial Heart Program and co-director of UPMC’s Heart Transplant Program.

Since finding a heart big enough for Mike might take some time, the doctors talked about using a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) as a bridge to transplant.

With bridge-to-transplant therapy, an LVAD takes over for the heart until a transplant can happen — relieving heart failure symptoms and allowing the patient to live a more normal life while they wait.

The Solution: LVAD as a Bridge to Transplant

During a routine test in February 2014, Mike’s heart and kidney function showed levels so low he couldn’t leave the hospital.

A week later, Dr. Kormos implanted a continuous-flow LVAD into Mike's chest. The LVAD moves blood directly from the left ventricle into the aorta and out to the body.

Before his release, Mike and his family got in-depth training on how to manage the LVAD and other aspects of his care. A team of doctors, nurses, and bioengineers are available around the clock to support Mike and his family while he waits for his heart transplant.

“I’m so glad I live in Pittsburgh. The care from UPMC has been amazing, and it’s just a great, great time in my life,” Mike says.

While he waits for a new heart, Mike:

  • Takes part in cardiac rehab three times a week.
  • Has monthly follow-up appointments to stay on track with his treatment plan.
  • Enjoys time with his family, coaching his daughter in softball, and working on projects around his home.

Mike's treatment and results may not be representative of similar cases.

Learn More About Heart Failure

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute:

UPMC Patient Education Materials:

Emmi ™ Patient Education Videos:

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