Medical Miracles

Mechanical hearts and the heart valve assist device

For decades the world that has focused on organ donor heart transplants as the only solution for a failing heart. Organ donor heart transplant lists are long and patients with heart disease often have no time to wait. In addition organ heart donations have dropped over the years and the numbers are declining every year. Yet heart disease is on the rise.

But Cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Willie Koen knows the solution to this, the groundbreaking research that has resulted in this golf ball size mechanical heart device, the Heartware Valve Assist Device (HVAD). It is a small mechanism that is implanted into the patient and serves as a pump for the left heart ventricle.

Pat Featherstone spent six months in ICU with little hope of surviving, until she discovered the HVAD solution. Dr. Koen implanted this lifesaving device at Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital in Cape Town, and within months Pat was back up and running around. She says now she lives an even fuller and more active life than ever.

Click below to hear journalist Barbara Friedman telling the story...

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