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Healthy You

Leading-Edge Implant Trims the Effects of Heart Failure

Thursday, April 25, 2019 1:46 PM

So weak that he was often unable to walk or climb into his truck, Milton Pickett was suffering from advanced heart failure. A longtime Evanston resident, Pickett was looking at less than a year to live before NorthShore cardiologists intervened and saved his life. 

Treatment in the Nick of Time 
Now, two years later, the 72-year-old Pickett enjoys a full life and has returned to his job as a barber—a nearly 50-year career—much to the delight of many recurring customers. “I feel 100 percent better,” said Pickett. “I can do what I want, and it was great to get back to work!” 

Pickett’s turnaround is thanks to a sophisticated mechanical pump available at NorthShore Cardiovascular Institute called a ventricular assist device, or VAD. The pump is implanted in patients with a weakened heart ventricle, or chamber. The VAD aids a failing heart’s ability to circulate blood throughout the body in patients like Pickett who have exhausted other interventions, including stents, pacemakers and open-heart surgery.

“Milton was in bad shape,” explained Cardiologist Robert Gordon, MD, who heads up the Heart Failure Management Clinic. “His options were hospice or this pump. We tried everything else available, and a heart transplant was not an option given his age.”

Shear Satisfaction
Pickett is quick to praise Dr. Gordon, his Cardiac Surgeon Hyde Russell, MD, and NorthShore’s multidisciplinary heart failure team for his renewed health and quality of life. Drs. Gordon and Russell both hold academic appointments at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.

Pickett and his family understood the surgery was the last resort and his only remaining option. “Dr. Gordon explained the whole procedure and told me it would change my life,” said Pickett. “He clearly knew what he was talking about.”

As the second NorthShore patient to undergo the open-heart procedure, Pickett received a left ventricular assist device—known as an LVAD. The technology continues to work wonders by boosting his heart’s ability to pump blood throughout his body.

NorthShore’s heart failure program is a true team effort and a testament to the resources and commitment to helping patients like Pickett, noted Dr. Gordon. “Taking care of Milton has been great. It’s so gratifying to see people get back to their lives.”

“I had great service at NorthShore,” added Pickett. “Every nurse that came through my door had a smile on their face. I felt safe, and I knew they wouldn’t let me go home until everything was right. I’d recommend Dr. Gordon and Dr. Russell to anyone who will listen!”