September 16th, 2016

Healthier and Happier: The Heart Pump That Makes it Possible

Robert “Bobby” Huth, a realtor and a former military man, always took care of himself. He exercised, ate right and avoided smoking. So when he felt a tug on his heart one day while helping a client move, he didn’t worry.

“I thought I pulled a muscle in my chest,” Bobby says. “We decided to break for lunch, and I went home and laid down.”

When he felt worse a few hours later, his wife, Sherry, called 9-1-1.

“They took me to Sentara CarePlex Hospital,” says Bobby. “I thought I wasn’t going to make it. I said goodbye to my wife.”

Exploring Treatment Options

Bobby later learned that he had a buildup of plaque. Doctors believe some broke off and affected the left side of his heart. They inserted a stent and transferred him to Sentara Heart Hospital.

“I was there for about two weeks,” Bobby says. “They started talking about an LVAD (left ventricular assist device.) I fought it at first, but after trying medicine for a few months and feeling worse, I decided to get it.”

An LVAD is a surgically implanted mechanical pump. It’s different from an artificial heart: Instead of replacing a heart, an LVAD works with the patient’s heart to pump blood. The patient carries a controller and a power source for the pump in small, external pouches.

Living Life

For the last four and a half years with an LVAD, Bobby has been able to enjoy life.

“Sometimes he is so busy that it’s hard to get him scheduled for his follow-up appointments,” says Carrie McKnight, a nurse and coordinator with the Sentara Health Failure program at Sentara Port Warwick and Sentara Heart Hospital. “He is planning his daughter’s wedding and meeting with vendors. That’s good he’s busy. It means he is living his life.”

Bobby receives most of his care at Sentara Port Warwick.

“I don’t see any difference in the care between the Heart Hospital and Port Warwick,” Bobby says. “The care is seamless. I’m excited about being on this side because I don’t worry about tunnel traffic.”

Less time traveling means more time wedding planning.

“I’m grateful. I get to see my daughter graduate from college,” Bobby says with a smile, “and I get to see her get married.”