By ROB W. ANDERSON
Virginia Marrs is a pioneer for local heart patients.
Five months ago at Integris Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City, the 69-year-old Hulbert resident received a first-line intermediate-to-chronic left ventricular assist device called the HeartMate II, because she was in heart failure facing her own mortality.
Before the surgery, Marrs was unable to enjoy the simple activities of life like walking across a street, playing with a grandchild, and even eating a home-cooked meal. The HeartMate II is helping Marrs enjoy life on her own terms.
“I didn’t think I’d make it, but I did,” she said. “I was scared to death. As soon as I came out of the surgery, everybody was so - you just wouldn’t believe what a great hospital [Integris] Baptist [Medical Center in Oklahoma City] is. They have such good people. They all seemed to know what they were doing. They would come in late at night and talk to me. They made it easier. I just came through it so good. I thought I was going to die.”
Marrs is the first patient in the Tahlequah area to go through the implant program, said Cardiovascular Surgical Specialist Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner Kathleen Steelberg.
“Mrs. Marrs is the first patient in Tahlequah, Cherokee County and probably eastern Oklahoma - any points of east of Oklahoma City - to currently be managed by their personal and primary cardiologist,” she said. “Mrs. Marrs is hoping to be a kind of example to take some of the fear off that, and show people that it can be done.”
Cardiovascular Surgical Specialist Dr. Jasdeep Dalawari is Marrs’ primary cardiologist, and after consultation with heart doctors in Oklahoma City, he referred Marrs to the implant program. Marrs is now receiving what is known as destination therapy. The heart pump is designed to improve survival and quality of life.
“It takes over the function of the heart, which is to pump blood throughout the body,” said Dalwari. “In [Marrs’] case, her heart was very weak. Her aortic valve was blocked up. There weren’t many options. So this device has actually made her a new person, quite frankly. Prior to this, she was in the hospital, I think, at least three times over the course of six or seven months with heart failure.”
Dalwari said Marrs would come into her appointments breathless.
“She didn’t have much exercise tolerance. She would come into the office, and she would be huffing and puffing. The first couple of times she thought it was as good as it was going to get,” he said. “She didn’t even know she felt that bad to a certain extent, until she ended up in the hospital. She was kind of used to a certain baseline level - terrible - because she didn’t know the difference. Now, I think she can really tell the difference.”
Integris Advanced Cardiac Care Nurse Clinical Specialist Bill Perry was one of the providers visiting Marrs’ room while she was in the hospital.
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