To date, only two cardiac explants have been performed in Southern California. They both took place at Sharp Memorial Hospital. Here is the amazing story behind one of them.
Life was good. Forty-one-year-old Mark Griffin had just returned home from a family retreat along the coast, where his days were spent Boogie boarding and fishing with his kids. He didn’t think much of it when he started feeling a bit nauseous, as he figured he may have come down with the stomach flu. A couple days later, after Mark’s wife, Michela, found him sitting on the floor next to their bed taking deep breaths, she rushed him to a local hospital.
|Mark with wife Michela, along with their four children following explant surgery at Sharp Memorial Hospital.
In the hours that followed, Mark’s heart stopped three times. A balloon pump and pacemaker were implanted; however, it soon became apparent that a more advanced procedure was required to stabilize him. While on full life support, Mark was transported to Sharp Memorial Hospital, where the mechanical circulatory support team was on standby.
The following day at Sharp Memorial Hospital, Drs. Robert Adamson, Walter Dembitsky, Sam Baradarian and Joseph Chammas facilitated the implantation of a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) — a lifesaving surgery that prevented Mark’s heart from shutting down. The next thing he remembers is waking up from a medically induced coma three weeks later with a Heartmate II LVAD.
|Mark in the pool with his four-year-old daughter about four months after having his heart pump removed.
“I had always been a healthy person,” said Mark. “I never imagined that I would have heart complications at such a young age.”
Dr. Peter Hoagland, a heart failure cardiologist affiliated with Sharp Memorial Hospital, and a team of nurses and physical therapists coached him through the physical and emotional recovery that followed.
“I just can’t express enough how wonderful the care was that I received in the ICU,” said Mark.
Mark would later find out that his heart failure was caused by hand-foot-mouth disease — a mild viral infection common in young children that rarely causes serious complications. The odds were not on his side early on. However, a moment was on the horizon that Mark ranks up with getting married and having kids.
Four months after having his LVAD implanted, Mark learned that his heart had recovered to the point that his heart pump could be removed. “That was the moment I realized life would get back to normalcy as we knew it.”
This time, the unlikely odds were on his side; to date, less than 2 percent of those who have received an LVAD implant have recovered to the point that they could have it removed. Mark was back home within a week of having his explant surgery, looking forward to jumping back in the pool with his kids when the weather warmed up.
Three months later, while on a family road trip, Mark and his family paid a visit to Thoratec — the company which manufactured his LVAD. “I wanted to show them firsthand what their work does for people.” He hopes his future voluntary visits to Sharp Memorial Hospital will do the same. “There’s nothing I can say to thank them enough for what they did for my family.”
For More Information
For more information about heart and vascular care at Sharp or to find a Sharp-affiliated doctor, search for a San Diego cardiologist or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm. To find general information about heart and vascular care, visit Cardiovascular Diseases in Adult Health or read the Heart and Cardiovascular News archive.