Determination. This is the story of a patient who would never give up and a young doctor who saw a problem and, instead of throwing his hands up, literally developed a solution using two Frisbie-like mesh discs. He plugged a major leak in the heart.
Kenneth Berger, heart patient: "I was 39 years old. I had a heart attack."
Now at 56 Kenneth Berger knows he's lucky to be alive.
Kenneth Berger: "Since then I have had two more heart attacks, six angioplasties, three stents, I am on my third pacemaker, I've got the LVAD pump."
The LVAD pump, implanted 14 months ago
a last chance to help him pump blood from his weakened heart into his body.
Kenneth Berger: "Before the LVAD I was awake maybe two hours a day. I had no energy!"
Soon after the LVAD -- energy. But the devices have a glitch.
Dr. Atman Shah, Interventional Cardiologist, University of Chicago Medical Center: "Fifty percent of patients who have LVADS, at about 12-18 months after the LVAD is put in, develop aortic regurgitation."
The aortic valve leaks after a series of assaults to the heart. Here's how it's supposed to work.
Dr. Shah: "This side of the heart is what gets all the old blood from the body. After our muscles have taken out all the oxygen, it comes to the right side. The right side then squeezes blood to the lungs where it gets oxygenated and it comes to the left side. And the left side is much thicker. It's a thicker chamber because now it has to squeeze blood to the entire body."
The left ventricular assist device helps in that process, carrying blood directly to the aorta for distribution to the body. But half the time an LVAD is used this is what doctors see on an echocardiogram
blood not pumping through the body but back into the heart.
"You should not be seeing any blood or any color."
Dr. Shah: "Patients often times would have to go back to the operating room for open heart surgery where they would have to then suture the valve shut and close it off with sutures."
But University of Chicago's Dr. Atman Shah had another idea. Why not use this device, threaded through a catheter, up the leg, to the heart and through the leaky aortic valve?
Dr. Shah: "If you can imagine my finger as the aortic valve, it sandwiches the aortic valve. This time you can see the actual device that is in the place of the aortic valve."
And you can see a scan clear of color no blood circling back into the heart. After losing his father so young to heart disease, Kenneth Berger says it warms his heart that he has another chance at life.
Kenneth Berger: "So much stuff has gone wrong and I just keep on going. I've got my wife to worry about, my grandkids, my daughters, they keep me alive."
Kenneth Berger was the first patient to get the LVAD fix. Four other patients have followed. So far all successful.