Dr. Batsides believes that the high-risk cases represented by Carlos Mora and Saul Baez are good examples of the way VAD technology is unquestionably saving lives. “Both were different situations. Both were interesting and complex,” says Dr. Batsides. “Mr. Mora needed two heart valves—and we put the machines in to bridge him to recovery. For Mr. Baez, multiple VADs kept him alive and stable while he awaited a heart transplant.” Ask both men to tell their stories, and you will hear about what they consider to be the miracle that kept them alive. over a period of five months. “These are extracorporeal VADs,” says Dr. Batsides. “The AB5000 was used on the right side and left side, sitting outside of the body.” Dr. Batsides and his team repaired Mora’s valves, and the machines helped relieve the pressure on his heart so that it could regain strength. Ultimately Mora’s heart recovered enough function for him to live a relatively normal life. “I’m the dad of a 15-year-old boy and an 18-year-old girl who I’m just getting ready to drive to college in Ithaca,” he says. When asked how he feels about his future, Mora says, “I always feel the glass is half full.” C Carlos Mora’s Heart Failed Two Days Before Valve Surgery in 2013 arlos Mora had long-standing aortic valve insufficiency. Born with an ailing heart, he remembers his parents telling him that the doctors said he wouldn’t live a week. But he defied the odds, getting strong enough to have surgery as a 5-year-old and, when he got older, running and playing baseball, football, and basketball. “I was very athletically inclined,” says Mora. During a physical three years ago, a doctor told Mora that he heard something while he was examining his patient’s heart. Mora, an active athlete at the time, refused to believe there was anything wrong. But echocardiography and cardiac catheterization confirmed his valve problems, and then cardiac valve replacement surIn Carlos gery was recommended. Mora begrudgMora’s case, a ingly decided to have the surgery—and VAD machine was was two days away from the procedure used to help him when he was rushed to the ER. That recover over a was in February 2013. “I don’t rememperiod of five ber anything until April,” says Mora. months. n “A leaky valve is an indolent killer,” emphasizes Dr. Batsides. A young person may not know it’s there. The valve can slowly become worse over time, causing the heart to enlarge and weaken. People can then become almost too sick for heart surgery. In Mora’s case, a VAD machine was used to help him recover F Marathoner Saul Baez Couldn’t Run Away from His Heart Risk or Saul Baez, his clean lifestyle wasn’t paying it forward. He was a marathon runner. He didn’t smoke or drink. But at 42, he had a mild heart attack. The culprit was high cholesterol. After he had a second heart attack a few years later, the stent total in his heart was up to five. In 2015, one month after he got a clean bill of health from his cardiologist, Baez had a massive heart attack that sent him first to the Raritan Bay Medical Center and later to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and Dr. Batsides. “Mr. Baez was in shock,” says Dr. Batsides. “His heart function was 5 percent.” Emergency bypass surgery was performed to see if there was any live muscle in the heart. Dr. Batsides also installed the Impella, another type of VAD, in the ascending aorta. “The machine can be removed easily when the heart recovers,” he says. After Baez recovered from shock, his heart was temporarily transitioned from the Impella device to the AB5000 until he was strong enough to have an implantable VAD—which bridged the time until a heart donor could be located and a transplant could be performed. Saul Baez had multiple VADs that kept him alive until a heart donor could be located and a transplant could be performed. n 6 Robert Wood Johnson I MEDICINE