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“Congratulations Mark, we have a heart for you!”

Posted: Monday, December 04, 2017

“I was driving to the gas station a mile from my house when all of a sudden I heard my LVAD start to beep; knowing I couldn’t take the chance I immediately turned my car around and sped home. I knew I had to plug it in before it died and my heart stopped beating.” The weight of this harsh reality became all too familiar for Mark Turczyn, a 55 year old man with a faulty heart. 

Mark lived a normal life, enjoying fishing and other outdoor activities when gradually his health began to deteriorate. Mark struggled with serious heart problems including; atrial fibrillation, kidney failure, liver failure, etc. His life had become consumed by doctors’ appointments and long hospital stays. “I had hundreds of tubes coming in and out of me,” said Mark. His condition reached a point where the doctors told him he would need a new heart because his own would not last much longer. 

There are several qualifying criteria to be eligible for a heart transplant. One of the main requirements is that the induvial requesting the transplant needs to be under the age of 60. At the time Mark’s physicians told him the weight of his circumstance - he was 52 years old, only eight years away from the cut off. Unlike some transplants, heart transplants are extremely rare and can easily take several years to find a correct match. Instead of letting this defeat him, Mark asked for the next best thing, a ventricular assist device (VAD) to hold him over until a possible heart came available. In this case, Mark received a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), which entirely took the place of his heart beating naturally. After the surgery Mark was completely dependent on the LVAD, a chargeable device, to keep him alive until a new heart came available. 
“My LVAD saved my life,” said Mark. He lived with his LVAD for just over four years until the Saturday that he got the most unforgettable call of his life. “I got a call at 1 o’clock in the afternoon from University of Michigan. I didn’t recognize the voice on the other end of the phone, but she said, ‘Are you sitting down?’ I said ‘No, should I be?’ she urged me to sit down. That’s when she said, ‘Congratulations Mark, we have a heart for you!” Mark recalls being completely overwhelmed; he was finally going to receive a new heart! “So I went to the hospital and got a new heart. It was the most amazing thing,” said Mark. At the time Mark received the call he was 57 years old, only three years away from never living with a real heart again. 

Mark reflected on his transplant and said, “Without the LVAD, I wouldn’t be here, it is a tremendous piece of equipment.” The LVAD gave Mark enough time to live a full life before he got his heart transplant. If Mark had not been able to get the LVAD, his heart wouldn’t have been strong enough to last until the transplant was available. Mark has been living with his new heart for three years and is getting back to the thing he loves, like working part time and mowing his lawn. He says, “Now I have a big life.”

Thanks to Orchid employees, Mark was given a new life. The parts for the LVAD are manufactured at Orchid’s Memphis, Tennessee site. Mark said, “I give the Orchid employees 100% credit for making the parts. They have a big job making sure that everything is sterile, working properly and up to spec.” He continues, “I never had any problems with any parts, everything worked beautifully.” Orchid employees have the unique job of giving other the chance to live a better life. Thank you for all your hard work!

What is an LVAD?
Like the heart, the LVAD is a pump. It’s surgically implanted just below the heart. One end is attached to the left ventricle -- that's the chamber of the heart that pumps blood out of the heart and into the body. The other end is attached to the aorta, the body's main artery.

Blood flows from the heart into the pump. When sensors indicate that the LVAD is full, the blood in the device is moved into the aorta.

A tube passes from the device through the skin. This tube, called the driveline, connects the pump to the external controller and power source.

Orchid visitors Mark Turczyn, Ray and Tina (Ray's story here) with Tony Crivella, Orchid's Senior Global Commercial Manager