‘I owe my life to this program’: Celebrating our advanced heart failure clinic

PROVIDENCE HEART INSTITUTE – On the third anniversary of Providence Heart Institute's advanced heart failure clinic, heart transplant and VAD patients and their families gathered in Portland, Oregon to celebrate with their Providence care teams.

Patients came from as far away as Alaska, sharing stories about the lifesaving care they received from Providence. One patient stood in front of everyone and captured the feeling in the room with just one sentence.

“I owe my life to this program."

Daniel Oseran, M.D., executive medical director for Providence Heart Institute, said he was proud to be associated with everyone in attendance. Jacob Abraham, M.D., division chief for heart failure, and Jill Gelow, M.D., medical director for heart transplant, reflected on how far they’ve come since opening the clinic and launching the heart transplant program three years ago – with 63 transplants to date. Daniel Westerdahl, M.D., medical director for VAD, acknowledged how emotional and inspiring it is to see patients coming together for an event like this.

“It’s not only a job; it’s personal for us to give families a chance to fight back against a really difficult disease,” Dr. Westerdahl says.
 

One of those families is Scott and Mary Buell. Scott and Mary were married in 2018, and were an active couple, enjoying soccer, rafting and mountain biking together. But Scott began having trouble keeping up and would quickly run out of breath.

“I just thought I was out of shape, so I tried to push myself harder,” he says. A year after they were married, Scott was diagnosed with heart failure. And just one week after that diagnosis, Mary found out she was pregnant with their first child.

Scott had first experienced heart issues in 2006 while on active duty in the United States Marine Corps. In 2006, he received a defibrillator and pacemaker and began to feel stable again. He was off medication and enjoying his favorite outdoor activities. He also became an Oregon State Police trooper in 2016. Everything was going great, he says, until severe symptoms returned.

At the age of 40, Scott had a heart transplant on Sept. 21, 2022. The couple worried about how long they had together, and with their two young sons, now 3 and 2 years old. Thanks to the care and heart transplant procedure Scott received, their family was given the one thing they wished for more than any other.

“More time,” Mary says. “He’s going to see these boys and help these boys grow up.”

Scott credits his family for seeing him through this, as well as his Providence care team at the heart failure clinic. “The whole team is just amazing,” he says. “I see them as family. All of them.”

Gary Moore understands the importance of family. The 75-year-old dairy farmer from Boring, Oregon thought he might not have much time left with his own family.

In 2017, Gary’s heart was failing. He spent 50 days in the hospital and met with the hospice care team. His doctor leveled with him.

“He said, ‘Gary, basically your system is shutting down.’”

They discussed a ventricular assist device, or VAD, which is an option for patients in advanced stage heart failure. It’s a battery powered device to help pump blood from the heart through the body.

“It’s a hinderance, but it does not limit me,” he says of the VAD. “If you follow their programs, you could live a good life.”

Since receiving the VAD in 2017, Gary has been able to meet two great-granddaughters. He’s seen a grandson get married and a granddaughter go off to college. He’s watched another granddaughter play varsity high school soccer, and helped teach his 10-year-old grandson to play chess.

At the clinic’s birthday celebration, Gary noted that he heard from another man who had this same procedure 12 years ago. “I’m going to blow by him” Gary says with a smile.

“I might see my great-granddaughter get married,” Gary says. “Is that a goal? Let’s make that a goal!”

See the news
KPTV l Providence Heart Transplant Program Anniversary

Video from the event

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