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"Lucky Number 100" LVAD Patient Feeling Stronger

Jim Daake

Jim Daake was always an active guy. Growing up around Norfolk, he spent a lot of time hunting, fishing, and at 6'11" he loved to play basketball. What was first thought to be a case of pneumonia stopped that active streak. It started three years ago when Daake had trouble breathing. His family doctor treated him for pneumonia, but when his breathing trouble continued, Daake went back to the doctor.

"He did more tests," Daake recalls. "They told me I had congestive heart failure."

Daake's doctor referred him to heart failure specialist Ioana Dumitru, MD at The Nebraska Medical Center. "At that point, I was very sick and I put my life in her hands," he says.

He says with Dr. Dumitru's guidance, his condition stabilized for about two years. About a month ago, Daake was at the medical center for a check-up. His condition had worsened. It was past the point where medication could help. His heart needed mechanical help. Daake met with heart surgeon John Um, MD and learned about a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD).

"It wasn't a hard decision," Daake says. "You either have to live with what you've got or give the device a shot."

The Nebraska Medical Center's Mechanical Circulatory Support program, which implants the devices and manages LVAD patients, was started in 2009. Since then, the program has grown rapidly and provides options for patients who previously had none. Initially, the LVAD was used exclusively to keep patients alive until they could receive a heart transplant. In 2011, the program achieved a milestone when it was approved for Destination Therapy. This meant that they could now implant the device for heart failure patients who were not candidates for heart transplant. When surgeons connect the LVAD to the heart, it takes over the job of pumping blood out of the heart and into the aorta, the body's main blood vessel.

Jim Daake didn't know it when he talked to Dr. Um about his surgery, but he was about to become the medical center's 100th LVAD patient. In his words, he was "lucky number 100."

Daake underwent LVAD surgery August 13. He is recovering well and looking forward to regaining his strength and enjoying more time with his wife and 19 and 22 year old sons.

"It was life-changing," Daake says. "I want to get back to living life again."

As for being LVAD patient number 100?

"I feel good that they have helped a hundred people before me and that they will help hundreds of people after me."

Author: Ann Clark, VAD coordinator