The Challenge: A Life-Threatening Heart Arrhythmia
Heather Blum had been healthy her whole life. The 31-year-old Shadyside resident thought she had come down with the flu in October 2012 when she felt weak and run down.
When symptoms didn’t subside and a heart arrhythmia kept her awake at night, her husband took her to the emergency room.
Her doctors determined she needed special care, and Heather had to make a decision on where to seek treatment. The decision was easy.
She chose to go to UPMC Presbyterian because, from living in the city, she knew of the hospital’s high reputation. Plus, her father-in-law works as a physician there.
The Path to UPMC's Artificial Heart Program
At UPMC Presbyterian, doctors found that Heather’s heart was struggling.
Her heart ejection fraction, which tests how well the heart pumps with each beat, measured at a life-threatening 10 percent. To compensate for her low heart function, her heart was beating rapidly at 180 beats per minute.
Surgeons at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute treated the cells causing the arrhythmia, but Heather’s heart was too weak to function.
In early November, she underwent open heart surgery and had an LVAD, a left ventricle assist device, implanted in her chest.
The Results: A Fighting Heart
Under the care of an expert team at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute, Heather used the LVAD as a bridge to recovery. She would need to be on the LVAD to buy her essential time before receiving a heart transplant.
However, Heather’s heart was stronger than anyone knew.
After only being on the LVAD for two months, her heart regained strength and fought against the device to work on its own.
Heather had a steady and remarkable recovery, and surgeons were able to remove the LVAD on February 1, 2013.
“I truly credit the entire artificial heart team for saving my life,” Heather said.
With her health, and her life, back, Heather and her husband adopted a baby girl named Maida in August 2013.
Healthy and happy, the new parents raise their daughter with their two dogs and run a natural pet supply store.
The Update: A Healthy, Happy Life
In 2016, Heather and her husband added a little boy, Sam, to their family through adoption. Heather and her husband enjoy spending time with Maida, now almost 5, and Sam, almost 2.
Heather, now 37, feels her heart function is "basically normal," saying, "I feel very healthy. I haven't had any complications. My heart rate has been normal and I'm thrilled that the positive outcome of my case has continued."
Heather maintains yearly checkups with Michael Mathier, MD, Director of the Advanced Heart Failure Center and looks forward to continuing to raise her young family, grateful for the strength of her heart and the care of UPMC.
Heather's treatment and results may not be representative of similar cases.
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