Once told he only had six months to live, John Seitz is now a regular at his local health club and eagerly awaiting the arrival of his first grandchild thanks to the life-changing treatment he received for heart failure at Ohio State’s Ross Heart Hospital.
After suffering five heart attacks, John Seitz’s heart was barely functioning. He first received a ventricular assist device to help his heart pump and improve his health. He has since received a heart transplant and is enjoying watching his daughters grow into adults.
A few years ago, when doctors in South Carolina told John Seitz that he only had six months to live, he decided that he wasn’t ready to go just yet. So, Seitz, who suffered from heart failure, moved to Ohio to get help.
“I had my first heart attack in 1995 and then four heart attacks over the next decade, which damaged my heart muscle and led to heart failure,” Seitz, 54, recalls. “Only 15 percent of my heart was working, even with a pacemaker and medications. However, at that time I wasn’t a transplant candidate. Basically, I was out of options.”
Going Home An Ohio native, Seitz knew that Ohio State had a renowned heart treatment and research center. At his request, his doctor referred him to an Ohio State cardiologist when he moved back to Westerville in 2007. Seitz’s new cardiologist recommended enrolling in a clinical trial for the HeartMate II, a ventricular assist device (VAD). Commonly known as heart pumps, VADs take over the pumping function for one or both of the heart’s ventricles when a heart is too damaged to pump on its own. Since Seitz was too ill for a heart transplant, the VAD was his only option to improve his heart’s function.
Seitz’s clinical trial was led by Benjamin Sun, MD, director of Cardiac Transplant and Mechanical Support. “At OSU, we are testing numerous short- and long-term options to help achieve the best possible outcomes for heart failure patients,” says Dr. Sun. “We use VADs to help improve the patient’s health while he or she waits for a heart transplant. In some cases with chronically ill patients, they will remain on the VAD indefinitely.”
More Options and Improved Outcomes
“John was turned down for a transplant elsewhere because of pulmonary hypertension—pressure in the lung’s blood vessels. He was too sick for a heart transplant, so we implanted a VAD to improve his overall health status and reduce the pulmonary hypertension with the goal of transplant,” says Ayesha Hasan, MD, medical director of the Cardiac Transplant program and Seitz’s cardiologist. “The VAD successfully unloaded the strain on John’s heart and lowered the pressure in his lungs.”
Because of the size of Ohio State’s heart program and the large number of ongoing clinical trials, patients like Seitz have access to a wide range of successful therapies and devices. Overall two-year survival rates with the HeartMate II are at 58 percent for all study participants from across the country. However, patients enrolled at Ohio State experienced survival rates approximately 10 percent higher at both one and two years, as well as an improved quality of life, which is attributed to Ohio State’s comprehensive team approach involving multiple specialists with specific interests in mechanical support and heart failure.
Seitz’s VAD worked so well that after a year on the device, he was healthy enough to be put on the transplant waiting list. Dr. Sun successfully completed the transplant when a donor heart became available only two weeks later.
“Since Ohio State’s transplant program started in 1986, we’ve done almost 350 heart transplants,” says Chittoor Sai-Sudhakar, MBBS, a transplant surgeon. “We also have one of the largest mechanical device programs in the country. Our multidisciplinary approach to patient care means that most of our transplant patients had mechanical assist devices prior to transplant. Therefore, they are much healthier at transplant time, and they do much better post-transplant.”
This is particularly true for Seitz. “About six months after the heart transplant, my kidneys started failing from an unrelated kidney disease,” he explains. “So in 2009, my sister donated her kidney to me, and I was healthy enough to do really well with that transplant too.”
Before the VAD and the heart transplant, Seitz couldn’t climb stairs, drive, go grocery shopping or even walk around the house without becoming exhausted. “Now I exercise at the gym several times a week and I’m in school to be a pharmacy technician. It’s really a complete turnaround,” he says. “But the best part is that I have two daughters and now I get to see them grow up.”
See another VAD patient’s success story.
Ross Heart Hospital
Ohio State’s Ross Heart Hospital has recently earned these national recognitions:
U.S.News & World Report ranked Ohio State 20th out of more than 4,800 heart and heart surgery programs across the country.
The Magnet Recognition Program® awarded redesignation status to Ohio State. This honor was developed by the American Nurses Credentialing Center to recognize nursing excellence.
The Beacon Award was presented this year by the American Association for Critical Care Nurses for excellence in adult cardiac patient care.
The Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey scores for the most recent fiscal year place Ross Heart Hospital in the 95th percentile nationally in patient satisfaction.
“These awards demonstrate that Ohio State’s Ross Heart Hospital is first class,” says Tom Ryan, MD, director of Ohio State’s Heart and Vascular Center. “Our patients get personalized, patient-centered care, which contributes to their overall health and wellness.”
Heart transplant patients and their families have a home away from home at the Unverferth House in Columbus.
The Home with a Heart
Spotlight on the Unverferth House
The Unverferth House on King Avenue serves as a temporary residence for heart transplant patients and their families who live outside Franklin County and need a place to stay during their visit to Ohio State. The house, which features nine fully furnished apartments, also serves as convenient lodging for patients just after discharge, when frequent physician visits are required. There is no charge to the guests who stay.
Unverferth House was established in memory of Ohio State cardiologist Donald Unverferth, MD, a well-known physician in the areas of cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure, who laid the foundation for Ohio State’s heart transplant program. Dr. Unverferth died in 1988, and Unverferth House opened in May 1989 as a tribute to his accomplishments and vision.
Take a virtual tour of the Unverferth House.
Ask Your Advocate
Q. My dad had heart failure. Am I at a greater risk?
A. Although some diseases that cause heart failure such as hemochromatosis (a disorder that prevents the body from properly breaking down iron) or cardiomyopathies (which weaken the heart muscle) are genetically inherited, most often the cause of heart failure is due to non-inherited conditions. The most common diseases that can lead to heart failure are high blood pressure, coronary artery disease and diabetes.
Visit OSU Family Practice at Gahanna.