Heart Health: Women and heart disease

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The Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) is a battery-powered pump that is implanted in the chest of a patient to treat congestive heart failure. Tonya Moore became the first Cone Health LVAD recipient on May 29, 2013, and recovered in record time. Before her procedure, Tonya’s blood pressure was so low she couldn’t walk 20 feet without becoming short of breath. Since receiving her LVAD, Tonya has been working with an exercise physiologist and even participated in a 5k with a few of her caregivers from Cone Health!

Living with an LVAD isn’t all fun and games though. The pump is battery powered, and the cord runs from the device outside the body to battery packs that Tonya wears all the time. She has a shower bag to put them in while she showers but at night she can choose to plug the device into the wall instead of wearing the battery packs. Dresses aren’t part of her wardrobe unless there is a cut out for the cord, and she carries a backpack with extra batteries with her everywhere. But none of that stops Tonya.

Tonya is more full of life than ever these days! She has become an advocate for women with heart disease, she coordinates support groups, and she became the South Atlantic district support leader for WomenHeart, the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease. Tonya has gone sledding and skating with the LVAD and looks forward to zip lining some day (don’t tell Dr. Bensimhon)!

Cone Health was the first community health system in North Carolina to begin surgically implanting LVADs and has since implanted more than 20 devices. Afterward, patients receive education to take care of and manage their devices, as well as long-term follow up care with a heart failure clinic team. Patients are also welcome and encouraged to attend support groups, such as the one Tonya co-coordinates for LVAD patients and their family members that meets every third Monday. WomenHeart of Cone Health meets every second Tuesday. To learn more about Tonya’s story, visit exceptionalcare.com, and WomenHeart class information can be found on the cone health website.

Spokesperson Background:

Tonya Moore is the support network coordinator and the South Atlantic district support leader for the Heart Sisters/WomenHeart support group at Cone Health. Moore received her training to become a HeartSisters/WomenHeart support group champion at the WomenHeart Science and Leadership Symposium held in Washington, D.C. in May 2014. She was the first patient at Cone Health Heart & Vascular Center to have a Left Ventricular Assist device (LVAD) implanted to treat her congestive heart failure. Since her heart disease diagnosis, Moore has been passionate about educating and empowering women with heart disease.