The cause of 54-year-old Javier Valencia’s heart problems remained a mystery for most of his life until doctors at St. Francis Hospital recently diagnosed the Ecuadorean immigrant with Chagas disease. The insect-borne parasitic illness, which is found mainly in rural areas of Latin America, can trigger heart failure if left untreated. The only hope to treat Valencia’s heart failure and prolong his life was to implant a Left Ventricular Assist Device or LVAD.
Edward F. Lundy, MD, implanted the first LVAD at St. Francis Hospital, making it also a first in Nassau County. Valencia initially received the device as destination therapy to keep his heart pumping for the time being. However, the goal is to get him listed for heart transplant in the near future. With the typical wait time to receive a transplant is 8 to 10 months, the LVAD will provide Valencia with prolonged survival and a better quality of life.
“LVAD offers tremendous hope for patients like Valencia, who need bridge therapy to stabilize them, while waiting for a transplant. But it’s also become a longer lasting therapy for patients who do not qualify for a transplant because of their age or medical factors,” said Lundy. “In these patients, the heart function has deteriorated so much that without LVAD, they won’t survive.”
The new therapy has given Valencia a new lease on life. Once he’s back on his feet, his next step is to be referred to a transplant center for evaluation, where Valencia will be listed for a new heart.