Arthur Plowden, 45, of Amityville, NY, just returned to Stony Brook. This time for a good time and to celebrate his new life. He came here last Thursday, not to the hospital but to the gym, to play basketball.
Plowden was the first patient at the Stony Brook Heart Institute to receive a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), a life-saving cardiac implant that helps bridge some heart failure patients, like him, to a heart transplant.
Now a heart transplant recipient, Plowden was invited by Stony Brook Seawolves Men's head basketball coach Steve Pikiell and team to shoot hoops, fulfilling Arthur's dream of playing on a basketball court again — after living with the LVAD for more than two years, and then receiving a heart transplant in July 2012.
The LVAD is considered by specialists as an intermediary device — or crucial as a "bridge to transplant" — for patients before heart transplantation, or for long-term use in patients who are not transplant candidates.
The Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) Program at Stony Brook has been in operation since 2010. Arthur Plowden was the first patient to receive an LVAD, in April 2010. His course with heart failure highlights the success of the "bridge to transplant" treatment.
Our first LVAD implant patient was invited by our school's basketball team to shoot hoops
at Stony Brook when they heard about his dream to play on a court again.
Among the people joining Plowden with the SBU Seawolves basketball team, in the Pritchard Gymnasium in the Stony Brook University Sports Complex, were Hal A. Skopicki, MD, PhD, director of our Heart Failure Program; Allison J. McLarty, MD, of our Cardiothoracic Surgery Division, and co-director of the Stony Brook VAD Program — who performed Plowden's LVAD implant surgery; and David D'Allesandro, MD, the surgeon who performed Plowden's heart transplant at Montefiore Medical Center.
"I am so proud of Arthur, and the way he returned to doing the things he loves to do shortly after his LVAD implantation," says Dr. McLarty. "He lives life with a lot of enthusiasm, hope, and energy, which has increased 10-fold as he has gotten healthier. His story has been an inspiration to us and to all of Stony Brook's LVAD patients."
About shooting hoops at Stony Brook, Plowden said, "It's all systems go for me now. I am back to my job landscaping, I fish all the time, and it felt unbelievable to be back on the hardwood court again."
Representing a new generation of artificial heart technology, the LVAD is attached to the heart and aorta, a cutting-edge life-saving procedure for patients with severe heart failure or deteriorating cardiovascular disease when there are no other treatment options.
After his LVAD surgery two years ago, Plowden called himself "half man, half amazing." He said at that time of his first outpatient follow-up visit one month after surgery: "I feel incredible, it's actually shocking to me, in a good way. My energy level is very high, like it was well before I had heart failure, and the device is very easy for me to monitor and hold in a pack at my side. I love my new life."
Heart failure is classified from Class 1 (mild symptoms controlled with medication) to Class 4 (severe symptoms despite maximal medical treatment).
Heart transplantation is the gold standard treatment for Class 4 heart failure, but is limited because of a shortage of donors and concomitant patient features such as significant kidney disease or history of cancer. The LVAD was developed initially as a "bridge" to help patients accepted for transplant survive until they received a new heart.
In February 2010, the FDA approved the LVAD called HeartMate II as "destination therapy," so that appropriate patients with Class 3 or 4 heart failure, who are ineligible for a transplant, might be supported indefinitely by the device. It is piggy- backed onto the left ventricle, the main pumping chamber of the heart. The blood pump sits in a pocket under the heart and pumps blood up to the aorta, the main artery exiting the heart.
All is contained within the body except for the driveline, an electrical cord, which is connected to a power source. This may be a plug-in power-based unit, when the patient is stationary, as when in bed at night, or a battery pack which allows freedom of movement.
Arthur Plowden's LVAD was the Heartmate II. It is the same device made famous recently by former Vice President Dick Cheney who had one implanted and subsequently had a heart transplant (read Dr. McLarty's blog about it).
Click here for information about our LVAD program at the Stony Brook Heart Institute. Watch this short video (2:06 min) of Arthur Plowden shooting hoops at Stony Brook: