Fallout after surviving heart failure

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) — A procedure saved the life of a local veteran five years ago, but the device keeping him alive is also preventing him from getting the care he needs.

“To me, that’s medical discrimination because you can take someone with one thing but you can’t take them with this or any other patient with an LVAD.” Said the man’s wife.

The LVAD is a device that pumps blood to the heart. Both University Hospital and UA offer life-saving surgery. Heart pumps can extend the lives of heart failure patients, but when long-term care is needed, ITEAM has found there are fallouts after surviving heart failure.

For better or for worse, in sickness and in health, Katrina Robinson stood by Gary.

“Twenty-one… He was just the guy who loved it.” But now Katrina says everything has changed. ” It does not support. He can no longer do anything on his own. »

She is now sitting at his bedside. “On January 4, he had a stroke. A massive stroke and it paralyzed his left side.

It was not their first contact with death. Gary underwent life-saving surgery at University Hospital after suffering heart failure five years ago.

“We were told that without the LVAD, his life expectancy was six months to a year maximum.”

But the heart pump that’s been keeping him alive since 2017, but now Katrina says new challenges have arisen, “It’s like they’ve put him to death.”

She says the LVAD is now preventing him from getting the therapy he needs to recover from the stroke.

“I’ve called dozens (of nursing homes). They just say nursing homes and rehabilitation centers aren’t taking LVAD patients and we’re not the only ones.”

Just this week, University Hospital performed its 100th left ventricular surgery and last February Augusta University Medical Center also began offering life-saving surgery. Although it’s local surgery, Katrina can’t find a single nursing home or rehab facility that will take her husband to start therapy in Richmond, Columbia, McCormick Counties…or Spartanburg. , Greenville and Columbia, South Carolina.

Not a single facility within a hundred miles will accept a patient with a heart pump. Katrina says he has now spent three months on very, very limited therapy to recover from the stroke. “Very frustrated. Very frustrated.

ITEAM turned to the Georgia Health Care Association for answers. They represent nursing homes throughout the state.

A spokesperson told ITEAM in an email:

“LVADS require specialist care and monitoring… If a center has indicated that they cannot admit a person, it is because they do not believe they can safely meet their full needs. Would you send a patient, an LVAD patient, to a nursing home,” ITEAM’s Liz Owens asked Kianna Curtis.

Curtis works with heart pump patients and their families at UA.

“As an LVAD coordinator, that wouldn’t be my preference because I know they wouldn’t be able to get the attention they need,” Curtis replied.

“In a nutshell, their hearts run on electricity, they require a lot of attention and if a patient is unable to change their power source, they will need a caregiver to do it for them,” said she explained.

How much specialized and necessary monitoring is needed for patients with heart pumps?

ITEAM found federal data on the device keeping Gary alive.

The Maude Database contains medical reports submitted to the FDA by manufacturers when they become aware of information that reasonably suggests that one of their marketed devices may have caused or contributed to death or injury.

ITEAM found over a hundred death reports involving Companion 3 in the Maude database in March of this year alone. During this month, we found “haemorrhage after disconnection of the mobile power unit” and “post-implant infection”, “blocked pump”, “bacterial infection at the exit of the transmission” and “flow problems before cardiac arrest”.

“They have a coordinator who is supposed to train the nursing staff here locally, but I don’t know if they do that or not.” Katrina explains.

Nursing homes have struggled to meet even basic patient needs since the pandemic hit. Staff shortages are now at a critical level.

The nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation found that nearly half (41%) of all nursing homes in Georgia reported staffing shortages during the week of March 20.

Katrina does her best to take care of her husband. “He’s just falling through the cracks and not getting the help he needs. Bathe it, feed it…” While working full time to pay the medical bills. “I can’t give him the treatment and therapy he needs because I’m not trained so I don’t know what to do.”

“It’s like they put him to death.” Until death do us part for Katrina and Gary. She says she will continue to fight for her husband to get the care he needs to get back on his feet.

Curtis told ITEAM they may need to start educating heart pump patients about potential issues trying to receive long-term care if the staffing crisis does not improve in nursing homes.

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