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Christ Hospital Heart Team using first right-side heart pump

Christ Hospital Heart Team using first right-side heart pump (WKRC)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - A local woman says a breakthrough heart device helped save her life, when nothing else seemed to work.

This new pump now has final FDA approval.


"There is hope for you, even in your darkest hours, there's is hope." Hope springs eternal Nancy Wilkins said this week. She is back to dancing, teaching, and living in a way her medical team could only hope, just a few months ago.

A heart attack and the surgery that followed had one side of her heart working but not the other. "That right side was very weak, wasn't squeezing and there's only so much you can do with the medications and the mechanical devices," said Dr. Joel Reginelli, interventional cardiologist at Christ Hospital.

In fact, Nancy was so weak and her health was declining so quickly, that the team requested humanitarian access for a device to be put in right at her bedside in ICU. "Quite honestly there didn't seem to be much other option, it was kind of the Hail Mary pass at that point."

It's called the Impella RP® heart pump. "It’s a tiny little pump, yeah, it's about the size of a pencil, according to Dr. Mario Castillo Sang.

Dr. Joel Reginelli and Dr. Mario Castillo Sang implanted the pump through a tiny incision in the groin. It's the first device of its kind to provide what's called temporary right ventricular support which is what Nancy needed to survive.

It took a little while but that part of the heart that they needed to begin working started to work on its own. "It basically took over the far side of the right side of her heart for days.:

"I feel pretty confident that if we hadn't had that device, I don't think I'd be sitting here having this conversation." As Nancy's heart got stronger, the tiny pump was removed. In its place is a fully functioning heart.

And a lot of gratefulness for which Nancy would like to, "thank them for taking the chance, that with the knowledge they knew that what they were going do would save my life, would save my life, I can't thank them enough for saving my life. I am going cry."

This right sided failure is not as common as some other types of failure.

Left sided pumps are already on the market.

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