Basketball Dad Gets an Assist From Mechanical Heart Pump

Keith Childs’ condition was touch and go when he first met Barbara Amos, RN.

“He was probably about a month away from the end of his life, in a chair in the ICU attached to multiple pumps,” said the clinical nurse specialist, who manages the Ventricular Assist Device Program for Kaiser Permanente in Oregon and Southern Washington.

Childs had heart failure, a condition in which the heart is too weak to pump enough blood and oxygen to the organs.

“It felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest,” he recalled.

Beating the odds

Some 5.7 million adults in the U.S. have heart failure. Half will die within 5 years of diagnosis.

The ventricular assist device, or “VAD,” is a promising treatment. The mechanical pump is implanted in the heart to help the left chamber pump blood.

“It gives a second chance to patients who have a heart that’s just too weak to sustain life,” said Yong Shin, MD, chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Kaiser Permanente in the Northwest.

While the ventricular assist device has been shown to improve survival and quality of life, VAD therapy is complex and high-risk. Kaiser Permanente launched its program with a team-based approach and detailed care plans designed to improve patient outcomes.

The results have been impressive.

“For the past 4 years, we’ve not had a death within 12 months of VAD implant,” said Timothy Jacobson, MD, chief of Cardiology. “Current mortality rates (at other medical centers) are 10, 15 or even 20 percent.”

Nearly 4 years after receiving his VAD, Keith Childs is “healthy, fabulous, raising his kids, being a basketball dad and working,” said Amos.

“They saved my life,” said Childs. “My kids are very grateful.”

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