UMMC Patient is First Person in United States to Go Home with Experimental Heart Pump
After receiving an experimental heart pump at the University of Maryland Medical Center two months ago, Woodrow Snelson got his wish: He went home from the hospital. Snelson left the Medical Center on November 8th, with nurses and doctors hugging him and wishing him well.
That makes him the first person in the United States to go home with a Jarvik 2000 device, which University of Maryland cardiac surgeons implanted in the Burtonsville man on September 6. Snelson has heart failure and continues to await a heart transplant.
The battery-powered pump, about the size of a thumb, is implanted inside the left ventricle of the heart. It produces continuous blood flow, but not a pulse. It was designed by Dr. Robert Jarvik, inventor of the Jarvik 7 artificial heart, to reduce the risk of clotting and infection associated with older heart pumps. The pump's small size would permit implantation in thin adults and children with heart failure, a condition that affects nearly five million Americans. About 550,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.
When he came to the Medical Center two months ago, Snelson was feeling weak and ill, and barely had the energy to move. Now, he says he feels much better and can walk and climb stairs. "I'm feeling terrific," Snelson said. "I have a lot more energy and stamina than I've had in months."
He also said the time he spent recovering at the Medical Center helped him to regain his strength. "Staying here was for my well-being," Snelson said. "They (the doctors) have done a fantastic job of keeping me on an even keel emotionally and physically. I give them an A plus."
Now that he has gone home, Snelson is anxious to spend time with his family, and is eagerly anticipating the upcoming holidays. "I'm starting to think about Thanksgiving and Christmas. I'm looking forward to turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie," said Snelson with a smile as he prepared to leave the hospital.
Doctors stressed how dramatically Snelson's condition has improved over the past two months.
"We had a patient who two months ago was bedridden and wasn't eating. Since then, Mr. Snelson changed from someone who could barely do anything by himself to the point that he was able to go home [while waiting for a heart transplant]," said Stephen Gottlieb, M.D., a cardiologist who heads the Heart Failure Service at the University of Maryland Medical Center and a professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "In the meantime he can enjoy life, spend time with his family and get stronger." Said Bartley P. Griffith, M.D., one of the surgeons who implanted the device: "We're thrilled to see him doing so well. Mr. Snelson's heart has gotten stronger."
|Mr. Snelson and his wife Barbara with his treatment team. From left: Dr. Bartley Griffith, Dr. James Brown, Nurse Practitioner Jo Ann Sikora, and Dr. Stephen Gottlieb.|
Tests performed on Snelson's last day at the hospital compared his heart function to two months ago, and showed significant improvement.
"For the past two months the Jarvik has worked especially well for Mr. Snelson," said Dr. Griffith, who is the chief of Cardiac Surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center and professor and head of the Division of Cardiac Surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
To prepare for Snelson's homecoming, Medical Center personnel have briefed emergency medical service (EMS) agencies and other health care providers in Central Maryland and the Washington suburbs on how this unique pump works.
Jo Ann Sikora, C.R.N.P, a cardiac surgery nurse practitioner, says the Medical Center has advised local EMS agencies that Snelson should be identified as a special needs patient. If the EMS received a 911 call about Snelson, they would immediately page a member of the Medical Center's cardiac surgery team.
At home, Snelson will have a nurse visit on a routine basis, receive visits from a physical therapist for strengthening and conditioning, and will travel to the hospital once a week.
"He's done incredibly well," said Sikora. "He's an amazing man and he's worked very hard to get where he is."
By Michelle W. Murray
University of Maryland Medical System Web Site Writer