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Inspired By the Heart

Don Stone, 65, faced a decision. Did he want to live or die?

End-stage heart failure ravaged his body, ballooning his weight and hindering breathing so a walk down the stairs to the laundry became difficult. Traditionally those in his situation had two options: hospice or heart transplant.

His cardiologist, Jamie Pelzel, MD, CentraCare Heart & Vascular Center, offered an alternative. When a heart is unable to pump enough blood on its own, a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), also known as a mechanical heart pump, can pump the blood from the heart to the rest of the body. An LVAD can prolong life, in some instances for more than 10 years, when transplant isn’t an immediate option.

The LVAD system has parts that work inside and outside the body. Inside, a heart pump is attached to the left side of the heart. Outside, a controller, batteries, and driveline help to power and control the heart pump.

Patient Stories

Read other stories of patient's courage and their care at CentraCare Heart & Vascular Center at St. Cloud Hospital.

In the end, Don’s choice was easy. “My inspiration to live was my beautiful granddaughter, 4-year-old Cheyenna,” Don said. “She needed me. I needed her. I just love that little girl so much.”

Don went on to become St. Cloud Hospital’s first LVAD patient on Dec. 2, 2015. His cardiothoracic surgeon, Daren Danielson, MD, has performed more than 50 LVAD cases throughout his career. St. Cloud Hospital now is among an elite group, being one of only about 50 programs of its type in the United States to actively perform LVAD surgery, with certification from The Joint Commission, an accrediting body that sets safety and care standards for hospitals.

"Don is exactly the type of patient we want to help in St. Cloud,” Dr. Danielson said. “He couldn’t wait around for a heart transplant, and he wanted to receive all of his advanced heart failure therapy near home. Don has been a model patient, and our team is proud of the opportunity to care for him.”

Discharged within 13 days, Don called Dr. Danielson “fantastic” and appreciated his straight-forward approach. Don also credits Gladys, his significant other, with his recovery, noting she helped him every step of way.

Today Don enjoys walking to the park with Cheyenna and teaching her about their Anishinabe heritage. Recently, as Cheyenna proudly counted "andek” (crows), Don savored the moment, feeling thankful for another chance to witness his granddaughter growing up a little more each day.

Learn more about CentraCare Heart & Vascular Center's heart failure services.