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Surviving Heart Attack - Cecil's Story

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Posted 4/11/2015

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It's hard to think of someone who had a massive heart attack as "lucky." But Cecil Carroll is a very lucky man. The retired Air Force jet mechanic was going to the V.A. hospital in Omaha for a routine check up when he had a massive heart attack. Had he not been in a hospital when it happened, his doctors don't believe he would have survived. The cardiology team at the VA worked tirelessly to get Cecil's heart working again. They placed a balloon pump inside his arteries and kept him on a breathing machine. But the heart attack had done too much damage. Their only option was to send him to The Nebraska Medical Center just a few blocks away. Doctors there could connect Cecil to a Right Ventricular Assist Device (RVAD). The mechanical heart pump would let Cecil's heart recover while the pump moved blood through his heart and lungs. Just two weeks prior to his heart attack, the med center got approval to use a percutaneous RVAD - a pump that could be connected without open heart surgery. His doctors considered open heart surgery highly risky given the gravity of his condition and the damage done to his heart. Cardiologists from the V.A. and the medical center worked with Nebraska Medical Center heart surgeon John Um, MD to attach the pump to Cecil's heart. Cardiologist Ed O'Leary, MD said it started working the moment it was switched on. Cecil made tremendous strides in the next 24 hours. The RVAD worked just as it was designed. After recovering from the heart attack, Cecil had a pacemaker implanted to improve his heart function. To learn more about the cardiac program at The Nebraska Medical Center, visit or call 1-800-922-0000. For more information about the Nebraska/Western Iowa Veterans Medical Center visit