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Health Information Back in the Fast Lane: Jim's Story

Driving home from the city one day, Jim felt a peculiar feeling in his chest. When the feeling subsided after a few minutes, he dismissed his symptoms as indigestion. The 61-year-old Corvette mechanic drove all the way from downtown Chicago to the western suburbs, not knowing he had just experienced a heart attack.

A few hours later, Jim's symptoms led him to seek treatment at a hospital near his home. He was discharged from the hospital after a week, but returned a week later in heart failure. When Jim's condition worsened, he was transferred by helicopter to Rush University Medical Center. Critically ill when he arrived, Jim was on a balloon pump and many medications to keep him alive.

Jim's team at Rush, including cardiovascular/transplant surgeon Robert Higgins, MD, considered the best course of action given the severity of his heart failure. Difficult cases like Jim's are not uncommon for the heart failure team at Rush, which also includes the expertise of heart failure/transplant nurses Susan Grossenbach, BSN, RN, and Shawn Paris, RN.

Together, the team developed an action plan for Jim's recovery. They all agreed that Jim would ultimately need a heart transplant. As a bridge to transplant, the team implanted a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), a sophisticated mechanical device that helps weakened hearts pump blood until a suitable donor heart can be found.

Jim responded well to the device, but his team at Rush soon realized he needed more than just medical care to get him through the tough times ahead. Together, they set about helping Jim understand what he needed to survive. They worked with him to mobilize his family — including his sister, who gave up a job in another state and moved back to Illinois to help her brother. They gave him detailed instructions on home care. Finally, Jim decided he wasn't going to let himself die before his mother died. He rallied.

Encouraged by Jim's newfound positive outlook and family support, the Rush team believed he would be an excellent candidate for a heart transplant. Jim left the hospital on a Wednesday. The following Friday — only two days after he was released — he was placed on the waiting list to receive a heart. He was called back to Rush on Saturday to receive a heart transplant when a suitable donor was quickly found.

During his recovery, Jim especially enjoyed walking up and down the halls at Rush. During his laps around the floor, he thanked everyone who crossed his path — dietitians, physical therapists, cardiac surgeons, cardiologists and residents. He even earned the nickname "Marathon Man."

Today, Jim shows his gratitude to his team at Rush and to the family of his donor by sharing his experience with other Rush heart failure and transplant patients. He recently participated in a heart walk, and says he hasn't felt this good in 20 years. And — perhaps the strongest sign that he is getting back to his life — since they "installed his new engine at Rush," Jim is rehabbing Corvettes again.


More Information at Your Fingertips:

  • For more information about the left ventricular assist device and cardiovascular care at Rush visit our Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery home page.
  • For more information about care for heart failure at Rush visit our Heart Failure Program home page.
  • For more information about other heart and cardiovascular services at Rush visit our Heart and Vascular Programs home page.
  • For more information about heart disease and its treatment, visit our health library:
  • Heart Center 
  • Looking for a doctor? Call toll free: 888 352- RUSH (888 352-7874)

Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.

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Back in the Fast Lane: Jim's Story

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