LVAD keeps woman alive until heart transplant - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

LVAD keeps woman alive until heart transplant

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LA CROSSE, WI (WXOW)—Nearly 118,000 people in the United States are waiting for an organ transplant, every day 18 people die while waiting.

A West Salem woman just got a mechanical device, called Left Ventricular Assist Device, that is buying her more time.

Janet Jacobson doesn't have a pulse.

The LVAD is constantly spinning to pump blood through out her body, rather than pulsating, so she doesn't have a normal rhythm.

"I was running around in October," Jacobson said. "I did Thanksgiving at my house in November. I didn't feel good but I didn't know I was sick."

It all started a few months ago when she thought she had bronchitis or pneumonia.

"My kids were like ok you're skin is gray and your lips are blue so you might not want to," Jacobson said.  "You may not be doing quite as well as you think you are."

The medicine other doctors gave her wasn't working, so she was referred to Gundersen Lutheran Cardiologist, Dr. Rajah Sundaram..

"She could barely walk from the lobby to the room," Dr. Sundaram said. "She was blue she was very short of breath. Her heart was pumping out so little blood it wasn't meeting the needs of her body."

Dr. Sundaram sent her to Madison to get a LVAD, which is like a mechanical heart.

"Its awesome. Years ago we didn't have options like this and its so gratifying to be able to take someone who is very ill and see them feel as well as they are," Dr. Sundaram said.

"I call him my guardian angel because if I wouldn't have seen him I wouldn't have made it through the weekend," Janet said.

Just two months after her surgery, Janet is back on her feet even working to become stronger.

Only she's tethered down.

"I tell my kids I feel like a cow girl because I have these things next to me like holsters," Janet said. "So I feel like I have guns but I don't have a gun so don't get excited."

Those holsters are keeping the batteries and computer by her side that connects to the LVAD.

"The LVAD, as good of an device as it is, is still not a totally artificial heart," Dr. Sundaram said. "There are some restrictions on activities, we don't allow people to drive or take a tub bath."

She needs help around the clock and her husband Monte doesn't mind being there.

"Because I love her very much and she's been tough and positive through out the experience and that helps me a lot and helps out situation to be optimistic," Monte said.

The LVAD buys her more time, but Janet still needs a heart transplant.

"Then he doesn't have to babysit me every day and he can go golfing whenever he wants," Janet said.

Janet is hoping to get the phone call saying they found her a heart with in the next 60 days.

But finding a match can be difficult because the person needs to have the same blood type and be relatively the same size as her so the heart works properly.

The good news is Janet can live with the LVAD for years.

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