Wednesday, April 23, 2014

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Rochester

Medical Device Gives Heart Patients New Hope

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Rochester: Medical Device Gives Heart Patients New Hope
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Heart disease is still America's number one killer. More than 150,000 people die each year because of heart-related health problems, and thousands more will die waiting for a heart transplant.

A device once used to help these patients survive the wait is now being used to help them live longer.

For one band and its trumpet playing leader, jazz is an art form and form of expression.

"It's the way I feel about life and music and everything else at that moment," said Paul Smoker, jazz musician in the Paul Smoker Notet.

Smoker made a musical career out of living in the moment.

"I drank a lot. I smoked a lot. I stayed up late, got up early. I didn't eat right," he said.

Decades of this lifestyle almost killed him.

"Yeah. I was a heart attack waiting to happen," Smoker expressed.

It happened in 2001. Paul survived, but his heart and health slowly started to fade.

"Around March, April of 2009 I hit a brick wall," Smoker said.

Ineligible for a transplant, Paul's doctor recommended another option – a device that could help his heart do the work it could no longer do on its own.

Called the HeartMate II, the portable kit is a computer-controlled pump. A cord connects the machine to the left side of Paul's heart.

"His heart is still pumping, but this device can take over and it can completely support the left side of the heart," said Dr. Leway Chen, University of Rochester Medical Center.

In January, the Food and Drug Administration approved the HeartMate II for use in patients with advanced stage heart failure. Doctors hope the device can extend life for years.

"I think for a lot of people where right now we wouldn't even think about a transplant because they're too old or they have other medical problem, now here's an option that could help a lot more people," Dr. Chen explained.

Living life on battery power may not be easy, but it isn't slowing Paul down.

"I'm retired, but I'm still working," Paul said.

And just like he has always done in music, Paul is living in the moment.

"I've been given a second chance – a new lease on life. And I'm taking it," Smoker said.

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