New, smaller heart pump extending lives of Arkansans

New technology is helping Arkansans live longer. If you put on the gown, it could help you too

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Imagine being told you only have months to live, then your doctors suggest trying a brand new, life-saving device.

That happened to the man you're about to meet in this week's Wear the Gown segment.

“I've never had anything scare me as bad as having shortness of breath that first time. I thought I was dying.”

Loading ...

77-year-old Harold Chronister has had his share of heart problems. For six years, he had a pacemaker and defibrillator.

But at a check-up last year, he got the news that his heart was failing.

“When they told me I had three to six months, that puts you in a spot right there.” To get out of that spot, he called up the team at CHI-St. Vincent Heart Institute.

“First thing he asked me, ‘doc can you make me feel better?’ I said, ‘we’ll do the best we can,’” said Dr. Muhammad Waqas.

Dr. Waqas and Dr. Thurston Bauer didn't want to take the short-term approach to treat end-stage heart failure. Only about 20 percent make it a year. Instead, they recommended a brand-new device that's never been used in Arkansas. It’s called Heartware HVAD.

It is a tiny pump that provides plenty of power at 10 liters a minute, which is a lot more than most of us require at any point in time.

Here's how it works. It's placed in the tip of the heart, and takes blood out of the heart, goes through the pump and then through a tube which is sewn to the aorta, the largest blood vessel in your body.

Or, as his family put it, it's like a turbo for a car.

This turbo was approved in September for patients not eligible for heart transplants, like Chronister.

This gives them an option that will allow them to not only live longer, but feel better.

THV11 caught up with Chronister a week and a half after the surgery and he was feeling better.

“It was time to take that turbo on a test drive down the hallway, step after step,” Chronister said.

Doctors say more than half of the patients who get this procedure will survive three and a half to four years.

Compared to the three to six months Chronister was given last year.

Loading ...

Another big difference is that the device is so small, doctors only do minimally-invasive surgery.

There are only two incisions made, making the recovery time much faster.