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Mechanical hearts are buying time for patients and groundbreaking research

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​​​​​​​Marva Lorde
Marva Lorde relied on a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) for two years before receiving a heart transplant. (Photo: The Globe and Mail)

When Marva Lorde went to bed on the night of October 25, 2007, nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

The former bank employee had been enjoying a life of leisure after working for 34 years, and she was looking forward to going to her regular workout class in the morning. At some point during the night, though, a feeling of indigestion came over her, and soon after the clamminess and vomiting began.

Despite feeling ill, she drove herself to the hospital, where she learned she had experienced a massive heart attack and had to stay in the Coronary Intensive Care Unit for the next 10 days.

"There was no pain, but on the inside damage was happening," she says. "I thought it was just a virus."

Over the next three years, the damage worsened to the point where, in 2010, her heart essentially stopped working on its own. Doctors had to implant a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) – a battery-powered mechanical heart that pumps blood through the body.

While Ms. Lorde had to plug it in every night, and she had to be mindful of the power cord sticking out of her chest, it helped improve her life.

"I had to be careful, but I got around to do a lot of things, like my cooking and washing," she says. "I didn't feel sorry for myself."

Ms. Lorde received her mechanical heart (called a Duraheart) at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre (PMCC), which, over the last 16 years, has developed a robust mechanical circulatory support program – it installed its 200th LVAD in late 2016.

PMCC Magazine 

The third annual Peter Munk Cardiac Centre (PMCC) magazine published by The Globe and Mail focuses on why Canada's premier cardiac centre is known for being “the heartbeat of innovation.” The magazine explores the PMCC model that supports the creation, development and evolution of innovative ideas into action – making “today's idea, tomorrow's practice.” It also examines the impact that a culture of innovation has on the way cardiovascular care is delivered now and into the future.​

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