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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, January 26, 2012

First in region to get heart pump
David Morey has a new lease on life

GUILDERLAND — After nearly two decades of suffering with heart and breathing problems, David Morey is facing his future with optimism.

Morey, 63, was released from Albany Medical Center Tuesday, two months after receiving a HeartMate II mechanical heart pump.

He is the first person in the Capital Region to receive the long-term left ventricular assisted device, or LVAD. It is the only LVAD approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration to treat end-stage heart failure.

The FDA approved the device in 2008 for bridging to transplant, and says, in the product description, that it “does not replace the natural function of the heart, rather, it works along with the patient’s own heart to pump blood.” In 2010, the FDA approved the HeartMate II for long-term use.

Morey said heart disease runs in is family, and both of his grandfathers and his father suffered from it. He had his first heart attack when he was only 45.

“It was a pretty bad one and I had to have a quadruple bypass in 1994, but things went along pretty well for a while after that,” said Morey.

Morey said he eventually started having breathing problems, and was diagnosed with congestive heart failure.

“I needed to have a cardiac defibrillator implanted, and I ended up needing it and getting shocked several times to re-start my heart,” he said. Morey said he had the implantable defibrillator for over five years, and then became “quite ill” and started having difficulty breathing again.

“I didn’t feel like myself anymore, I felt like this whole thing had taken something away from me,” said Morey. He described having to retire from his role as a community support specialist for the Wildwood Program, where he worked with adults with disabilities. He had to retire after suffering an “episode” while he was out in the community with consumers; he called 9-1-1 and was rushed to the hospital.

“I realized I just couldn’t do it anymore,” he said.

Morey was put on a medication called milrinone in August 2010, which was meant to help contract his left ventricle. He had a peripherally inserted central catheter, or PICC line, placed to deliver the medication to his bloodstream. But, the medication stopped being effective after 22 months.

At the time that Morey stopped using the implantable defibrillator and started using milrinone, he underwent extensive testing to determine whether he would be a good candidate for a heart transplant.

In early 2010, he was put on the transplant list at Tufts Medical Center, in Boston, Mass.

“If I had wanted to wait for the transplant, I would have had to stay in the hospital until a heart became available, which isn’t something that happens right away,” said Morey.

“The fact remains that there are not enough donor hearts available for the patients who could benefit from them,” said Morey’s surgeon, Stuart Miller, M.D., division of cardiothoracic surgery.

Another option

Miller cardiologist suggested the LVAD as an option for Morey, and, after discussing it with his wife, Kathleen Sheridan, he decided it would be the best choice for him if he wanted to prolong his life and still be able to spend time with his family at home; he has one son and two stepsons. 

On Nov. 30, Morey underwent the seven-hour procedure to have the LVAD placed. The device is a small pump, roughly three inches in length and weighing less than one pound, that helps move blood throughout the body.

Morey said the surgeon opened up his chest, cut into the left ventricle of the heart, and sewed in the device. A motor, he said, and a tube extending from the left ventricle to the aorta help circulate his blood.

The LVAD is battery-operated, and Morey has batteries he can carry with him when he wants to be mobile; when he sleeps, or when he is relaxing at home, he can plug into a base unit.

“Right now,” he said yesterday, “I’m trying to stay up and about and get by strength back, and my appetite is coming back. My wife is taking good care of me, just as she has been all along.”

When he is feeling strong again, which should be in about a month, he said, Morey is looking forward to doing simple things, like being able to run errands independently again. He is also excited to be able to go out to meet his wife for lunch, go for nice drives on the weekend, and get out and try new restaurants, all things many people take for granted.

He can’t wait for the day that he can travel again, and wants to go to Maine, South Carolina — and to Ohio, to visit his son.

“I’m really looking forward to being able to do that, and to finding out that I can do that,” said Morey. He is still on the transplant list, but, if his name comes up soon, he said he doesn’t know if it would be something he would want to take advantage of at this point.

“Maybe at a later date,” he said.

Morey said he wants people with congestive heart failure to be aware that there are other options out there besides a transplant, and he encourages people to find a good cardiac surgeon if they would like to consider LVAD.

“There are options out there to prolong your life, and to make you feel good about your life, too,” he said.

“I survived, and made it, and I never doubted that I would I not get better,” concluded Morey. “I knew I would never be who I was at one time, but I knew I would go on to lead a relatively productive life.”

By Anne Hayden

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