Edgar Arredondo was 15 years old when he had a ventricular assist device implanted in his chest to keep blood pumping after a muscle disease weakened his heart.
In children, mechanical heart pumps often serve as a bridge to heart transplantation, allowing patients with heart problems to leave the hospital until a donor is found. But Arredondo, now 26, has never had a transplant. Instead, he recently celebrated 10 years of living with the device — a rare milestone — and doctors say he’s going strong despite having recently contracted COVID-19.
“I never thought I’d get this far and live so many years with a VAD. It’s easy and hard at the same time,” said Arrendondo at Stanford Children’s Health article.
Arrendondo is in an elite club. He has lived with a ventricular assist device far longer than any other Stanford pediatric cardiac patient and longer than most adult patients worldwide. Of the 27,000 adult recipients worldwide who have the device, only 370 have lived with it for over 10 years.
Implanted in open-heart surgery, ventricular assist devices contain a motorized pump. Attached to the heart’s left ventricle, it continually pushes blood through the heart and back to the body. A cable inserted through the patient’s abdomen connects the pump to a wearable controller, battery and power cable outside the body.
Taking care of your heart (pump)
When Arrendondo received his first implanted device – called the HeartMate II – in Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford in 2010, many children’s hospitals had not attempted the procedure because nearly all ventricular assist devices are designed for adults.
In 2018, he received the latest version, HeartMate 3, which maintains better blood flow and results in fewer complications.
Living with a mechanical heart pump requires a lot of care. The patient must carry the cable, controller and extra batteries wherever they go; keep your entry site clean; and alert your service team whenever something isn’t right.
Since clotted blood can clog the pump, Arrendondo’s care team must balance anticoagulant medications with anticoagulants to keep the blood flowing. It avoids hospitalization since 2018, even when it hired COVID-19.
Although patients with ventricular assist devices are susceptible to pump malfunction, strokes, and infections, Arrendondo recovered from COVID-19 without the need for supplemental oxygen or hospital support. He credits his family for helping him stay healthy.
Arrendondo, who enjoys going to church, eating healthy meals with his family, drawing and playing video games, marked five years in a ventricular assist device with a celebration in Lucile Packard’s yard. He celebrated his 10th birthday with his parents and sisters and hopes to celebrate with his doctors and nurses as soon as the dangers of COVID-19 pass.
“Edgar’s point of view is what makes him superhuman. For most people, living with an VAD would cost a greater mental toll,” said the pediatric cardiologist. John Dykes, MD, medical director of the ventricular assist device program at Betty Irene Moore Children’s Heart Center. “His willingness to take it easy no matter what, along with the incredible support of his family, is truly remarkable.”
Norbert von der Groeben’s top photo shows Edgar Arredondo surrounded by his care, Betty Irene Moore, Children’s Heart Center care team, your parents and your sisters when he celebrated being on a ventricular assist device for five years.