LVAD provides ‘bridge to transplant’

Statistics show that the prevalence of heart failure increases steeply with age and those age 65 and older are the high-risk age group for heart failure. However, Krystal Jordan, a 21-year-old woman from Waynesville, MO, will tell you that statistics don’t provide the whole story.

Krystal began experiencing heart problems about four months after giving birth to her son in July 2005.

“I became real sick to the point where I couldn’t lay down on my bed — I had to have five pillows behind me,” she says. “I couldn’t walk a short distance without getting short of breath. When I went to the doctor, they told me I had fluid built up in my lungs. They kept me overnight and did a test the next day. They said my heart was enlarging and called it post-partum cardiomyopathy.”

At this point, Krystal was experiencing the beginning symptoms of heart failure. Over the next two years, she had a series of strokes and a heart attack and had a defibrillator implanted. Her condition gradually worsened until she had to quit work and go on disability.

“I felt like I was just slowly losing my life,” she says.

In November 2007, Krystal was implanted with a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) as she awaited a heart transplant. The LVAD is implanted below Krystal’s heart and takes over the pumping function of the left ventricle.

Krystal says having the device is an adjustment. She must carry an external drive and batteries around the waist, change batteries and change the sterile dressing where the driveline enters her stomach. However, she finds the adaptation to the LVAD well worth it.
“My life was put on hold for so long, and now it seems like I’m getting it all back,” she says. “I am able to sleep and go to the mall with my friends. I’m not a burden on my family.”

Once she gets her transplant, she plans to enroll at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, MO, and begin the path to becoming a cardiologist — so she can provide hope to others in her situation.

Krystal recently was moved up to the top step on the heart transplant list and awaits transplantation.