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Heart Patients Second Family

Published on December 21, 2016

When Heart Patients Become Second Family

During severe weather, heart patients depend on Cone Health for powerful support.

Daniel Bensimhon, MD, has been known to refer to the patients of the Cone Health Ventricular Assist Device program as his second family. That’s not hyperbole: He accepts invitations to patients’ family events, took a fishing trip with some patients this summer, and even shared his haul of halibut from Alaska.

Ensuring access to electricity

Consider how Bensimhon and his team care for heart patients when severe weather threatens to knock out electrical power.

“Any time there’s an emergency, we have two ventricular assist device coordinators who call every single patient,” he says.

His patients rely on electricity to keep their hearts pumping. Because they suffer from advanced heart failure, these patients have a battery-powered pump constantly supporting blood flow. Even when running their pumps on lithium batteries that sit in a holster, patients need a way to recharge their devices every eight hours. Having access to power during severe weather is critical.

“If the power goes off or the lines go down,” Bensimhon says, “we direct patients to fire stations with generators so they can keep their batteries charged, or we have them come to the hospital.”

One patient’s home wasn’t equipped with the electrical outlets needed to power his pump; Cone Health paid for an electrician to rewire his bedroom. Cone Health staff has also helped ventricular assist device patients in other ways. Staff members have brought groceries to recovering patients who live alone. One patient was a young father who was having surgery just before the holidays; the hospital staff helped his family to celebrate Christmas in the atrium of the Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital, with gifts— including bicycles—for his children.

Involved in all aspects of patients’ lives

In addition to establishing and expanding the Ventricular Assist Device program with Peter Van Trigt, MD, Bensimhon takes patient care beyond the clinical level. “There are all kinds of things our team does to provide assistance to make this therapy possible,” Bensimhon says. “These are people we spend a lot of time with. We’re not just putting a pump in their chest. We get involved with all aspects of their lives.”

At a recent celebration with the Cone Health Heart and Vascular Center team, heart pump recipient Michael Ledford said, “On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give them a 15. They have become like new family to me. I actually look forward to coming out and seeing everyone. I couldn’t be more thankful.”