Kim Johnson ReportingThe second person in this country to receive a new life-saving artificial heart pump reached a milestone in Salt Lake this week. She got to leave LDS Hospital and move into a house for recovering heart patients.
Six months ago Cindy Hill says she thought she'd celebrated her last Christmas. Two days ago, the 45-year old Oklahoma woman walked out of LDS Hospital feeling better and stronger than she has in years.
Cindy Hill: "I've walked from the hospital here to LVAD house. I've walked around the zoo. Yesterday was my first time in a grocery store again."
Last January surgeons at LDS Hospital implanted a new experimental heart pump in Hill, only the second person in the entire country to receive it. Before the FDA allowed clinical trials on the new pump, people waiting for heart transplants were kept alive with a much larger left ventricle assist device.
The original LVAD heart pump is large, and wouldn't fit in a small person like Cindy. The newer generation device is called the Heartmate Two, and its about the size of a D battery. It's small, but able to take the work load off Hill's ailing heart, allowing it to rest, and Hill to get strong and ready to receive a heart transplant.
Karl Nelson, Dir. Artificial Heart Program, LDS Hospital: “The pump works on the concept of a turbine engine, with one moving part--the turbine. It fits into this cylindrical shape, and rotates at a constant RPM.”
Those RPMs deliver a continuous flow of blood, without damaging blood cells. Hill says she doesn't even notice it. In fact, all she has to remember is to carry around a battery pack.
Cindy Hill: "Now I forget that I even have it sometimes. I go walking and leave it laying on the bed."
That's why she's got her mom nearby.
Ida Lewis, Cindy's Mother: “It’s just great. She’s back like Cindy used to be.”
Now with one milestone behind her, she looks forward to the next one, that of receiving a real heart transplant.
Because she was doing so well, the FDA changed its protocol to allow Hill to leave the hospital and live in nearby "LVAD House".