“I knew something was wrong when I couldn’t even walk slowly without stopping to catch my breath,” recalls Lindsay Ledford. She was only 23 when diagnosed with familial cardiomyopathy and heart failure.
Familial cardiomyopathy is a genetic disorder that causes weakness and thinning of the walls of the left ventricle, lessening its ability to supply oxygen-enriched blood to the body. Both her mother and her grandmother suffered from the disease.
Seeking treatment, Ms. Ledford came to the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute’s Center for Heart Failure, where she received help from two highly experienced healthcare professionals: a surgeon and a nurse specialist. She met with cardiac surgeon Edwin C. McGee, Jr., MD, and Suzanne Wallace, APN/C-NP, an advanced practice nurse and Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) coordinator at the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute.
Ms. Ledford was placed on the waiting list for a heart transplant after the medical team met with her and reviewed her medical history. She was told that she needed a ventricular assist device (VAD), a mechanical device that takes over the pumping action of a diseased heart to stay alive while waiting for a new heart, but she chose not to have the VAD procedure and went home. “The idea of surgery and the technology involved with the VAD scared me,” says Ms. Ledford. “I thought I could wait it out until I got a transplant.”
However, she suffered a cardiac arrest with multisystem organ failure. As soon as her body recovered, Dr. McGee implanted a VAD, which was her only chance for survival until she received a heart transplant. With the VAD, Ms. Ledford was able to resume many of the activities she enjoys.
Ms. Ledford received her heart transplant in June of 2009. Today, she is doing well and regaining her active lifestyle.
“I can call Suzanne Wallace anytime I need anything,” says Ms.Ledford. “She’s the one who taught me how to use the VAD and how to change the dressings. I’m really comfortable talking with her. She made this experience much easier than I thought it would be.”