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Life-Saving Treatment for Advanced Heart Failure Patient

Thursday, June 10, 2021 4:23 PM

Ilham Ganiyev was not expecting a miracle turnaround when friends—who were scared he was dying—finally convinced him to go to a NorthShore hospital last March. “I thought maybe I had three or four months left to live,” said Ganiyev, who was suffering from advanced heart failure.

“I was extremely unwell, and my situation was getting worse,” recalled Ganiyev. “I had such severe shortness of breath that even after walking a few feet I would get tired and have to rest. I could barely make it up the stairs in my home.”

Life-Saving Introduction
The 54-year-old Des Plaines resident, originally from Azerbaijan, was in cardiogenic shock. And that day in the hospital he met Cardiologist Nitasha Sarswat, MD, which undoubtedly saved his life.

“Ilham’s heart was simply unable to pump enough oxygenated blood to the rest of his organs,” explained Dr. Sarswat, who leads the NorthShore Cardiovascular Institute Advanced Heart Failure Program. She first connected with Ganiyev through a Russian language interpreter, gaining his trust and initially putting him on medication to help his failing heart pump more effectively.

But the real game-changer came when Dr. Sarswat suggested that he was a good candidate for a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD), an implantable mechanical heart pump. In April 2020, Ganiyev underwent the advanced LVAD procedure at Evanston Hospital and literally received a new lease on life.

Miraculous Turnaround
“Within five or six days after surgery, I was able to start moving around, and after a month I was able to climb the stairs with no problem,” exclaimed Ganiyev. “Physically, I was able to do what I could do 20 or 25 years ago. I felt young and full of energy and I still feel excellent!”

The LVAD is implanted in the pericardium, or sac, located around the heart. “It pumps blood from the lower chambers of the heart to the rest of the body and in some cases it can help remodel the heart, making it tighter and more efficient,” explained Dr. Sarswat, a heart transplant expert who, in addition to her NorthShore role, also directs the Infiltrative Cardiomyopathy Program at the University of Chicago Medicine.

Ganiyev, who previously worked as an intensive care healthcare provider in Azerbaijan is still in awe of his seemingly improbable return to health. He has enormous praise and thanks for Dr. Sarswat and the entire NorthShore heart failure team including Cardiologists Robert Gordon, MD, and Charu Gupta, MD.

“Thanks to NorthShore I have a second life. The care I received was absolutely ideal. The doctors thoroughly explained my options and were very involved and engaged in my care,” he added. “I had a lot of trust in them. I felt and still feel very connected to them.”

Dr. Sarswat is equally thrilled that Ganiyev is doing so well. “It’s our goal to help patients like Ilham get back to a good quality of life and he’s really made the most of it,” she noted. And she believes there are many others suffering from heart failure who can be successfully treated with advanced therapies including LVAD, which can sometimes be a bridge to heart transplant. For patients who are good candidates for a transplant, Dr. Sarswat provides care before, during, and after their transplant.

Dream Team
Ganiyev’s gratitude extends to all members of his care team, particularly Nurse Practitioner Sara Edwards and Social Worker Jin Ko, who provided physical and emotional support in and out of the hospital. “I received a colossal amount of help from those two. They played a huge role in my life,” he said. “They’re much more than NorthShore employees to me.”

“We see people at their sickest and most vulnerable,” noted Dr. Sarswat, who also is a professor at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. “So it’s incredibly fulling to see these same patients in the clinic after treatment with their families and doing wonderfully.”

Dr. Sarswat is hopeful that as NorthShore’s program continues to grow, the multidisciplinary heart failure team will help more people realize there is hope, help, and a chance to return to an active life.

Ilham Ganiyev is living proof. Today he walks more than a mile most days, rides his bike, and enjoys a range of hobbies and activities with his wife and adult son. “I’m very active and I feel very lucky,” said Ganiyev. “Thanks to NorthShore I can celebrate this ‘second’ birthday with my LVAD, and it’s such a gift.”