Bryan Health LVAD program offers hope for heart failure patients

The surgical team at Bryan Medical Center recently implanted an LVAD device in a 56 year-old Saunders County man. LVAD stands for left ventricular assist device. It is a mechanical device that circulates blood through the body when the heart is too weak to do so itself. It's for patients like Steve Minarick, who have end-stage heart failure, but do not qualify for a heart transplant.

“Without the LVAD, it was just a matter of time before Steve’s heart gave out completely”, says Dr. Mathue Baker, cardiologist, Bryan Heart Institute. “His quality of life had been poor for a very long time because of his heart failure and he was not eligible for a transplant because of his past cancer history. An LVAD was his last hope.” In 2007, Steve battled lymphoma and won. He was cancer free, but, the chemotherapy that killed his cancer had damaged his heart. His progressive heart failure left him feeling exhausted all the time and unable to perform daily tasks like doing dishes or taking a walk with his wife. As a father of two teenagers, he struggled to attend his kids’ school events. He had to surrender much of the physical work of running his gravel pit business to his brother, who is also his business partner.

Dr. Rick Thompson, cardiothoracic surgeon, Bryan Heart Institute, described Steve’s LVAD as destination therapy, meaning it is a permanent treatment for his condition. “Destination therapy is an alternative to transplantation. By implanting a long-term VAD, patients have the opportunity to live more independently with a longer and higher-quality life.” Thomspon explains that Steve received the HeartMate II. “It is the latest model and the smallest of all the FDA-approved LVADs – measuring approximately three inches in length and weighing approximately 10 ounces. It is placed just below the diaphragm in the abdomen and is attached to the left ventricle and the aorta. An external, wearable system that includes a small controller and two batteries is worn outside the clothing that keeps the device running.”

Steve says he is looking forward to taking walks with his wife Sharen when he returns home to Morse Bluffs. “I probably won’t be able to keep up with her, but at least I can get out there.” Sharen Minarick says she is grateful that her husband received the Heart Mate II in Lincoln. “For the first time in five years, when I asked him how he felt, he said ‘good.’ He was almost giddy.”