Case study: Mother who 'died' twice saved by heart pump made by Nasa

A MOTHER-OF-THREE who "died" twice on the operating table has been saved by a revolutionary new heart pump made with parts designed by Nasa scientists.

Heather McIntyre, 27, was rushed to hospital after suffering heart failure five months after giving birth.

Her heart stopped beating after all her major organs failed and her family were told she had died "a couple of times".

However, a surgeon at the Golden Jubilee National Hospital in Clydebank kept her alive by massaging her heart and inserting a Ventricular Assist Device (VAD). It uses tiny motors designed by Nasa scientists to pump blood around the body, taking over the heart's function.

Despite this, Ms McIntyre was given just a 5 per cent chance of survival, but over the following weeks her heart, and other organs, started to recover.

Unfortunately surgeons at the Golden Jubilee had to amputate her left leg, which had been severely damaged by a blood clot caused by her heart failure last July. However, Ms McIntyre, of Airdrie, Lanarkshire, is now recovering well at home and credits the VAD with saving her life.

She said: "When I came into the Golden Jubilee National Hospital I was suffering from multi-organ failure; my heart, kidneys and liver were all shutting down.

"My mum was phoned at six o'clock in the morning and told that I had already died a couple of times and had to go for surgery right away.

"I don't remember much of what happened at the time, but there is no doubt that the VAD saved my life as it allowed my own heart to rest and to fully recover. My heart started to recover because it was getting that wee rest. Well that's what they think anyway."

Cardiothoracic surgeon Saleem Haj-Yahia told how he refused to give up on her.

He said: "All her organs failed: kidneys, liver, lungs and heart. She needed a very quick resuscitation which required taking her immediately to theatre. We needed to open the chest and massage the heart, while implanting the device."

Ms McIntyre is already walking on crutches and is full of optimism for the future despite the loss of her leg.

She added: "I'm fine about it. I've got a prosthetic leg. I'm home with my kids. I'm not going to sit in the house and cry because I've lost my leg or I've got scars.

"I'm going out and I see more people than I ever did and I feel so good.

"The care and dedication of the staff at the Scottish National Advanced Heart Failure Service is superb and I am delighted that other people will have the same opportunity as me as part of this new strategy."The Golden Jubilee hospital in Clydebank is one of only a handful of hospitals in the UK to use VADs. The device is usually used as a temporary measure while a patient waits for a transplant, but for a small number of people their own heart recovers after a break.

Heart specialist Dr Mark Petrie said: "In the past we were limited to drugs and pacemakers, but now we can actually take over the function of the heart and drive blood around the body, so it's a huge benefit for patients who are acutely sick."

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