Mechanical Heart Rescue Could Lead to Healing - and Freedom


If I had a transplant, then I'd have to take immunosuppressants that would mean I wouldn't have been able to be with my great-grandchildren if they were sick.

-Donna Jackson, patient at Stanford Hospital & Clinics

Jackson gets checked by her Stanford cardiologist, Dipanjan Banerjee, MD.

Jackson's great-grandchildren, Mason, 8, and Peyton, 6, are an important part of her life. And they love storytime with her on her bed. Peyton, in particular, likes to help with the job of checking the heart pump.


The heart is almost all muscle. With each of its expansions and contractions, it sends blood out into the body to enable its every action. When that muscle weakens, the body begins to fail, too.

Who is at risk?

  • Heart failure can be caused by many conditions, including valvular disease, high blood pressure, narrowed coronary arteries, irregular heartbeat, infection and diabetes.
  • Age: At age 65, heart failure is the most common reason for hospital admission.

What are the symptoms?

  • Shortness of breath
  • Visible swelling of the legs, ankles, feet and, sometimes, abdomen
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Loss of appetite and nausea
  • Persistent coughing or wheezing accompanied by phlegm
  • Decreased alertness

How is it treated?

  • Medication
  • Surgery, including valve repair, ventricular restoration, coronary artery bypass, myotomy and transplant
  • Medical devices such as a defibrillator, pacemaker or ventricular assist like the LVAD

Who is a candidate for LVAD?

Someone whose heart has deteriorated beyond the best medical management, but whose overall health is strong enough to withstand surgery

How to keep your heart healthy

  • Eat a low-fat, low-sodium diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Quit smoking
  • Exercise regularly
  • Limit alcohol consumption

Cheryl's mother, Betty Birdsong, lives near Jackson and the two walk together every day, in part to help with Jackson's recovery.

Everything's been going good. Dr. Banerjee keeps saying, 'People aren't in your shape after having this.'

-Donna Jackson, patient at Stanford Hospital & Clinics
Video Transcript