After spending years in and out of the hospital, a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) is helping support circulation in Bill George’s heart – allowing him to spend quality time with family and friends, including his two grandchildren, pictured here. (Photo: Courtesy Bill George)
Last September, 70-year-old Bill George was admitted to the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre (PMCC) in end-stage heart failure, kidney failure and with a potential cancerous mass in his large intestine.
To survive, Bill needed a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) to help support his circulation, but there was a chance he would not make it through surgery. Even if he did, he may end up on dialysis only to face a fight with cancer.
“I had two choices: get the LVAD or I wasn’t going to make it,” says Bill.
“It was pretty well a matter of life and death. I figured, what do I have to lose?”
“When they first told me about the LVAD I was scared, because I was still thinking I’m going to be leaving with my heart doing well,” says Bill. “But within a day I had come to grips, knowing this is what I need and that I had to go for it.
“There was nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
Luckily, Bill also had Dr. Vivek Rao, Division Head of Cardiovascular Surgery at the PMCC, on his side. Despite the challenges Bill’s case presented, Dr. Rao fought for him and advocated for doctors to go ahead with the LVAD.
“The Advanced Heart Failure team discussed the complexity of Bill’s case. He was extremely high risk, and there were concerns that things could go wrong,” says Dr. Rao.
“I suggested to our team that we ask Bill if he wanted to be aggressive or be referred to palliative care. He chose to be aggressive and our team went ahead with the procedure.”
Bill and his granddaughter spend time together before his LVAD implant. “When they first told me about the LVAD I was scared,” says Bill. “But within a day I had come to grips, knowing this is what I need and that I had to go for it.” (Photo: Courtesy Bill George)
Recovery well, spending time with family
Bill had his LVAD implanted in November. The surgery was a success, his kidney function recovered without dialysis and the mass in his intestine was resected and found to be benign. He was sent home 20 says after the procedure with what Dr. Rao describes as “a completely new outlook on life.”
“I’m looking forward to another 10 or 20 years with this,” says Bill. “It’s been amazing – this device helped me so much.”
Three months later, Bill is recovering well at home and is spending lots of time with his children and grandchildren.
“I can’t believe the love and compassion that comes from the doctors and nurses here. It’s just been amazing,” says Bill. “The Peter Munk Cardiac Centre truly is a lifesaver.”
“I’m also very grateful for the support from my family and friends. Especially to my kid three kids, who went above and beyond to be there for me.”