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Published on June 29, 2016

VADiversary Event Celebrates Lifesaving Heart Care

Michael Ledford and Dalton McLean, MD

Cone Health cardiologist Dalton McLean, MD. and
Michael Ledford

Dozens of patients and their family members joined physicians, nurses and staff at Moses Cone Hospital in June to celebrate the third anniversary of Cone Health’s lifesaving Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) program.

Through Cone Health's VAD program patients with advanced heart failure are able to receive a mechanical heart pump that pumps blood for a failing heart, and may help patients live longer and have a better quality of life.

“I feel better than I have in the fourteen years that I have dealt with congestive heart failure,” said patient Michael Ledford, whose VAD surgery took place August 17, 2015. “A lot of the issues I had for fourteen years I don’t have any more. I’m still not as strong as I’d love to be, but I’m much stronger than I have been. I can walk two miles without any problem. I was at Stone Mountain the other day and hiked up to the waterfalls.” Ledford is pictured at right with Cone Health cardiologist Dalton McLean, MD.

Daniel Bensimhon, MD, who leads Cone Health’s advanced heart failure program, told attendees that 28 patients have received VAD therapy at Cone Health since the program launched in 2013.

Dr. Van Trigt with Kenneth Cottrell

Dr. Peter Van Trigt with Kenneth & Joan Cottrell

“We did it together. We really did it as a family,” Bensimhon said. “We laughed. We cried. We hugged. I really applaud all of you from the bottom of my heart for what you bring to our hospital and my life. This room has become my second family.”

Patients attending the event reflected on the benefits of the VAD program and their experiences at Cone Health.

“I’ve had the VAD for two years, as of July third, but before that I was told I had six months to live,” said Cone Health heart care patient Kenneth Cottrell. “That’s quite the staff. You’ll never see a staff as great as that staff. The attention I got from the nurses I couldn’t believe. Everybody, they are really so on top of it.”

Annie Gardner and VAD team

Annie Garner with Dr. Bensimhon
and VAD Coordinator Molly Reece, RN.

“Before I had the VAD I couldn’t walk that far and I was out of breath all the time. Since I’ve had it, I’ve been able to do so many things that I wasn’t able to do then,” said patient Annie Garner whose VAD implantation at Cone Health took place on August 5, 2014. “I feel great. It was a great experience. The nurses and doctors were great. I had no problem at all.”

Dante Burt, whose VAD was inserted at Cone Health on April 4, 2016, said he appreciated the heart care staff’s work to prepare him for VAD therapy and to help him in recovery. He was prepared to stay for at least a month in the hospital, but was discharged after eight days following VAD implantation.

“Amazing. I couldn’t have wished for any better treatment. Everybody was great,” Burt said. “I got the lessons in advance from Stephanie Dixon, VAD coordinator, and by the time I got the VAD I was ready. Everyone on the team was extremely attentive and very thorough, making sure that we knew what we needed to know.” Burt is pictured below with, from left, Charlene Dunlap, RN, Dr. Bensimhon and Kristan Reeve, ACSM certified, cardiac rehabilitation exercise physiologist.

Dante Burt with VAD Care Team

Dante Burt with, from left, Charlene Dunlap, RN,
Dr. Bensimhon and Kristan Reeve, ACSM certified,
cardiac rehabilitation exercise physiologist.

At the event, Dr. Bensimhon recognized cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon Peter Van Trigt, MD, for bringing the vision and effort needed to establish the VAD program at Cone Health. Bensimohn also recognized Cone Health team members involved in delivering exceptional care through the VAD program, including: VAD coordinators Stephanie Dixon, RN, and Molly Reece, RN; advanced practice providers Amy Clegg, RN, MSN, CWOCN, and Andy Tillery, PA; heart failure social worker Jackie Brennan, CSW; heart failure nurse navigator Daphne Wood, RN; nursing and pharmacy team leads Megan Bradley, RN, and Heather Schub, RN; Dee Talley, director of physician practices for Cone Health’s Heart & Vascular Center; and, Rich Lundy, Cone Health vice president for heart & vascular, respiratory therapy, & imaging services.

“It is my promise to you that we’ll continue to push the envelope here and do whatever we can to reward your trust in us with care that stacks up to any program in the country,” Bensimhon said to patients attending the VADiversary event. “Thank you for giving us the amazing privilege to participate in your care. A lot of our success is due to your hard work and to your families’ hard work.”

Cone Health is certified by The Joint Commission to implant mechanical circulatory devices as a bridge to a heart transplant or as a lifelong destination therapy. The Cone Health Heart & Vascular Center is ranked among the top 10 percent of programs in the nation for medical excellence in major cardiac surgery and coronary bypass surgery by CareChex®, a division of Comparion.

“On a scale of one to ten, I’d give them a fifteen,” said VAD patient Michael Ledford of the Cone Health Heart & Vascular Center team. “I have been more than pleased. They have become like new family to me. I actually look forward to coming out and seeing everyone. I’m thankful. I couldn’t be more thankful.”

Meet Tonya Moore

Tonya Moore was a 36-year-old mother of two with no family history of heart disease when she had a heart attack. Now, thanks to a battery-powered-pump (VAD) attached to her heart, Tonya is full of life again.

Read Tonya's Story

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