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Published on December 05, 2017

NC Basketball Referee Legend Jimmy Fuqua on Life with a VAD Heart Pump

NC basketball referee legend Jimmy Fuqua on life with a VAD heart pump

Patient Story: NC Basketball Referee Legend Jimmy Fuqua on Life with a VAD Heart Pump

Jimmy Fuqua has refereed high school and college basketball in North Carolina for well over 40 years.

“When I went out on the court that was my life,” he said. “Any time somebody called and needed a referee for Special Olympics, or anything like that – donating time to a church league or something like that – I always tried to do it. I thought the Lord gave me some extra ability to referee and I was trying to serve.”

The Climax, NC resident refereed high school basketball more than 35 years and small college for eight years.

“I enjoyed every minute of it and the heart attack is what brought me off the court,” he said.

Jimmy was admitted to the Cardiac Cath Lab at Moses Cone Hospital in January of 2015 and diagnosed with end stage heart disease. After thorough discussions with his medical team, Jimmy chose a treatment path that included insertion of a Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) to support his heart function. Peter Van Trigt, MD, was Jimmy’s surgeon.

“Jimmy’s a legend in refereeing high school and small college basketball in North Carolina,” Van Trigt said in June of 2017. “When I learned of the opportunity he had to celebrate his final game as a referee at Cameron Indoor Stadium, I was fully supportive. To understand how a patient can regain their function, regain their strength, following VAD surgery is something you really have to see to believe.”

“I didn’t think I’d get to referee anymore,” Jimmy said, reflecting on his years of revitalized life following VAD treatment at Cone Health and recognizing the leadership of Duke University basketball for enabling him the opportunity to celebrate retirement at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Watch the video above to learn more about Jimmy Fuqua and his life with a Ventricular Assist Device.

The VAD family at Cone Health

Heart and Vascular Team

Members of the heart failure care group at Cone Health

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Until recent years, people facing heart failure often could only hope to become a candidate for a heart transplant. Now, at select hospitals including Moses Cone Hospital, heart failure patients have a life-saving option – the Ventricular Assist Device (VAD). Exceptional cardiovascular surgeons and care teams have implanted more than 40 VAD heart pump devices at Cone Health since 2013. The heart failure team celebrated more than 20,000 days of extended life for their VAD patients in 2017. Their expertise is recognized in U.S. News & World Report’s 2018 ranking of Cone Health among the nation’s leading health systems for heart failure care.

Beyond the skilled medical intervention heart failure patients receive at Cone Health, care teams partner with patients throughout their treatment journey, staying connected after patients achieve revitalized life following VAD surgery.

“They’re great, the staff is phenomenal, it’s like family being with them,” said Greensboro resident and 2017 VAD patient Marian Hill, pictured with Certified Medical Assistant Jasmine Brown. “Everybody knows you on a first name basis. They know everything that is going on with you. They’re amazing. There is not a time when you call or come in that they don’t ask, are you ok, and say how glad they are to see you.”

“They are there every time I need them," said VAD patient Vickie Allen. “They’ve answered all my questions. Their real concern for me made me feel good. I felt like they are part of my family.”

“It’s the best thing that ever happened,” said Jimmy Fuqua. “My surgeon came by one Sunday morning after he’d been to church with his suit and tie on, and I asked him why are you here, and he said because you’re my patient and I’m here to check on you.”

Learn more about heart and vascular care at Cone Health here.

Patient Stories