Birthday Celebration for "Heart Engine" Patient

October 23, 2015

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Peter Westrum and his family celebrate his 73rd birthday.

It’s Peter Westrum’s 73rd birthday, but the candles on his cake read 394. That’s the number of days of life he’s had this past year, thanks to the jet engine that’s taken over circulating the blood through his body.

About a month before his 72nd birthday, Westrum became the first patient at Mercy Hospital Springfield to get a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) after advanced heart failure made it nearly impossible to walk or eat. He and his family had two choices: getting the LVAD, or saying goodbye.

“You can think of it as a little jet engine for your heart,” explained Dr. Sunil Prasad, Mercy cardiac and thoracic surgeon. “It replaces some of the work of the left ventricle to circulate blood more efficiently throughout the body, getting the oxygen where it needs to go.” The device can give patients several more years of active life, or act as a bridge to transplant for those awaiting a new heart. Patients with an LVAD do not have a detectable pulse, because the device is circulating their blood for them.

The decision to have the surgery was life changing for Westrum and his wife, Sue. He has to carry equipment, like battery packs, wherever they go. But it hasn’t stopped them from going where they want. They’ve logged nearly 10,000 miles in multiple road trips for days on end – without a single day of illness. For Westrum, it’s been quite the adventure and he loves sharing his experience and the life he’s regained.

Now, one year later, Peter came back to the hospital, but not for a procedure. He wanted to share lunch with friends, family and the care team that got him back on his feet. “Today we praise God for his healing grace and for caregivers,” he said. “I feel such an awesome gratefulness to God to be here with you all today, recognizing those who played a role in my return to health.”

To learn more about the path that led Westrum to choose an LVAD, visit Since Westrum's surgery, Mercy Hospital Springfield physicians have implanted LVADs in six other patients. For those who think the LVAD could benefit them, Mercy offers a single-line referral: 417-820-2738.


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