'Healing Hearts' Dinner Celebrates Advanced Heart Failure Patients and Caregivers

BIDMC Contributor

OCTOBER 26, 2018

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BIDMC’s recent “Healing Hearts Dinner for Advanced Heart Failure Patients and Caregivers” at the Inn at Longwood was an opportunity for patients and caregivers of patients with ventricular assist devices (VADs) to spend time with one another and their Advanced Heart Failure care teams in a relaxed setting outside of the hospital.

“Our patients and their caregivers have been through a lot and have endured many hardships throughout their treatments,” said Marwa Sabe, MD, MPH, Associate Director of the Advanced Heart Failure Program. “This event provides a night to relax, eat good food and enjoy good company.”

An enthusiastic round of applause and loud cheers followed.

Living with a VAD

Organized by Katelyn Rick, RN, mechanical circulatory support coordinator in the CardioVascular Institute’s Advanced Heart Failure program, “Healing Hearts” was conceived to celebrate patients as they bravely embark on their VAD journeys.

VADs are implanted mechanical pumps that can serve as a “bridge” to help damaged hearts pump and function while patients await a heart transplant. In some cases, VADs are permanently implanted to help a heart do its job.

BIDMC’s VAD program launched in 2012 and since then, has steadily grown to include physicians, surgeons and nursing staff as well as social workers, nutritionists and other support staff. Randy Frasier, the first patient to have a VAD implanted at BIDMC, was in attendance at the dinner and received a standing ovation.

“Patients with congestive heart failure are often too sick to take part in everyday activities -- whether it’s working, exercising or even meeting friends for coffee. As we can see from our patients who attended the dinner, VADs can be very successful in restoring patients’ quality of life,” said Sabe.

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Another patient, Tharon Cottrell, shared his story of what it was like to learn he had congestive heart failure when he was only 39. After more than 20 hospitalizations and steadily declining heart function, Cottrell recently had a VAD implanted at BIDMC and is now awaiting a heart transplant. “I’ve named my VAD ‘Shirley,’” joked Cottrell. “Shirley’s a pain, but she keeps me alive,” he said, quickly adding, “that is, the VAD and all the love that everyone has given me keeps me alive.”

A Special Relationship

Because patients with VADs and the members of their care teams see each other frequently -- and for long stretches of time -- they often build especially close relationships.

“You have become part of our Advanced Heart Failure family and we celebrate your wins and share your setbacks,” Rick told the attendees. “We recognize the privilege it is to be part of your care team.”

“We’re happy to be able to help our courageous patients and their caregivers regain their quality of life,” said David Liu, MD, Surgical Director of the VAD program. In addition, a major theme of the evening was an emphasis on the patients’ personal caregivers.

“We appreciate how difficult a VAD or heart transplant can be on the patient and loved one,” said Sabe. “Although our medical and surgical teams work hard to ensure excellent patient care, the truth of the matter is you the caregivers are the true champions of care for the advanced heart failure patients.”

About Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a patient care, teaching and research affiliate of Harvard Medical School and consistently ranks as a national leader among independent hospitals in National Institutes of Health funding.

BIDMC is in the community with Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Milton, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Needham, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Plymouth, Anna Jaques Hospital, Cambridge Health Alliance, Lawrence General Hospital, MetroWest Medical Center, Signature Healthcare, Beth Israel Deaconess HealthCare, Community Care Alliance and Atrius Health. BIDMC is also clinically affiliated with the Joslin Diabetes Center and Hebrew Rehabilitation Center and is a research partner of Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center and the Jackson Laboratory. BIDMC is the official hospital of the Boston Red Sox. For more information, visit www.bidmc.org.