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LVAD pump helps Piedmont woman living with heart failure

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Living with heart failure can make everyday tasks nearly impossible, but there’s new hope for people in the Triad who aren’t eligible for a heart transplant or remain on the waiting list.

“It’s a very rare and precious resource,” said Cone Health Cardiologist Daniel R. Bensimhon. “There are about 3,000 heart transplants done across the world every year. There are many, many, many more people who need transplants. We have to choose a sort of select population of who gets the transplants. And then for everyone else; how are we going to have you wait to your transplant or what are your other options?”

One option now available through Cone Heath in the Piedmont Triad is the Left Ventricular Assist Device.

“It’s almost like bionic woman or something. I’ve got all these parts,” said Tonya Moore, the first patient to have the pump put into her heart at Cone Health in Greensboro.

Every morning she unplugs from the wall and plugs into her batteries.

“If there’s one thing my daddy taught me is that you learn to live with what you have,” Moore said. “I have a bag I have to carry with me everywhere I go with extra batteries, extra clip, extra controller. Extra everything.”

Moore suffers from heart failure, which was first discovered during a hospital visit back in 2006.

“We didn’t know when I had had a heart attack,” said Moore.

Soon after, Moore was put on the heart transplant list.

“There is a 15 percent chance that we’ll find a match because I have a very high level of antibodies,” said Moore.

She eventually decided to have an LVAD pump put into her heart.

“We open the chest, and for people with failing hearts we take a tube and insert it inside of the heart and that pumps blood into a pump and then the pump returns blood back to the circulation,” said Bensimhon.

Moore became the first Cone Health patient in Greensboro to undergo the surgery last May.

“I can do more things around the house,” said Moore.

Everyday tasks like loading the dishwasher or grabbing the mail were once nearly impossible.

“I can do more things with my husband,” Moore said. “I can do things with the kids.”

She’s now exercising three times a week during therapy sessions.

While the LVAD doesn’t replace Moore’s need for a new heart, it has given her something worth its weight in gold.

“It’s actually given me part of my life back,” Moore said.

For now, Tonya remains on the transplant list and in the meantime she trains for a 5K race this fall.

“Even if I only end up walking it,” said Moore. “I’ll still be proud of myself for that.”

Cone Health has performed five LVAD surgeries in the Triad since last May.

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