A story about heart failure
Elmer Goodman is no stranger to life-saving medical care.
In 1999, Elmer was stopped on his motorcycle when a drunk driver slammed into him. Elmer was thrown 125 feet and suffered a collapsed lung, ruptured bladder and other serious injuries. He spent three weeks at Strong Memorial Hospital as a result.
“I wouldn’t be here without them,” he says.
About 10 years later, though, Elmer would find himself needing help from Strong and the University of Rochester Medical Center once again.
“My arms would start throbbing as I was walking up and down hills,” says Elmer, who owns 9 acres of land in Bristol, south of Rochester, NY. “Both arms would be hurting, and I would have to stop to rest.”
Elmer told his doctor about the pain he had been feeling. His doctor sent Elmer for an EKG and nuclear stress test at F.F. Thompson Hospital in Canandaigua.
Dr. Roger Vince of Finger Lakes Cardiology Associates reviewed the stress test and arranged for an emergency consultation. His colleague, Dr. Bryan Henry, saw Elmer later that day and immediately scheduled a cardiac catheterization with coronary angiography at Strong Memorial Hospital.
In this procedure, a small incision was made in Elmer’s groin. A thin, flexible tube called a catheter was then threaded through a blood vessel and up to Elmer’s heart. The catheterization revealed that one of Elmer’s coronary arteries was completely blocked, while another one was 75% blocked.
“They told me that if that one got plugged, I’d be dead,” says Elmer.
Dr. Todd Massey, Senior Transplant Surgeon at URMC performed a quadruple bypass on Elmer’s heart. Within a few days, Elmer was back home and recovering.
Cardiac resynchronization therapy-defibrillator
While the bypass almost certainly saved Elmer’s life, his heart did not bounce back as doctors had hoped. After several months, Elmer still felt sluggish. He was experiencing heart failure, a condition in which the heart is not able to keep up with the body’s needs.
When Elmer saw Dr. Henry again in January 2008, he felt Elmer would benefit from an implantable defibrillator. This device could save Elmer’s life should his weakened heart suddenly stop. Dr. Henry referred Elmer to Strong for a consultation.
At Strong, Elmer received better news than he was expecting: He might qualify for a new device that would not only protect him from sudden cardiac arrest, but might actually improve his heart failure symptoms.
In patients like Elmer, a condition called desynchrony causes the heart to beat in an uncoordinated way. The new device, called CRT-D for cardiac resynchronization therapy-defibrillator, would provide an electrical signal to help resynchronize the heart’s larger chambers, the ventricles. The CRT-D research study was being led by Dr. Arthur Moss, a highly respected cardiology researcher at URMC.
Dr. Burr Hall, an electrophysiologist at URMC, implanted the CRT-D device. It was placed just below Elmer’s skin in the shoulder area, with several wires leading to Elmer’s heart.
Elmer went home the next day. Almost immediately, he began feeling improvements in his health.
“I felt better probably within a week,” says Elmer. “Once that device gets the heart in synch, it stay in synch. It’s great!”
Elmer’s quality of life improved week by week. Now he returns to Strong every 3 months to have tests that determine whether the CRT-D device needed adjustments. And every 6 months he sees Dr. Henry to follow up on his heart failure and cardiomyopathy and to make any necessary changes to his medications.
“If everything is fine, they don’t need to make any adjustments,” reports Elmer. “But last time, they needed to raise the defibrillator levels because my heart had improved so much!”
The results of the research study provide even more encouraging news: Patients receiving the new CRT-D device had a 34% reduction in their risk of death or heart failure as compared to those who only received a defibrillator.
A New Beginning
His experience with URMC has truly given Elmer’s life a new beginning. Now 69 years old, Elmer retired from his job at Upstate Metrology at the end of 2009.
“I do love working,” says Elmer. “My boss almost had tears in his eyes on my last day!”
Elmer now enjoys helping out with the two grandchildren who live with him in Bristol. He and his wife have also joined the local YMCA, where they exercise several times each week.
“I’m feeling terrific!” says Elmer. “100% better than when I went in there. The people at Strong have really done great by me. I owe them quite a bit.”
Elmer admits that he is still trying to decide what to do with all his free time—and his renewed feeling of health.
“I tried retiring in 2003, and that lasted about 3 months!” says Elmer, who started working full time when he was 13. “My boss told me, ‘Don’t worry. If you change your mind, your job will still be here!’”