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Don’s Story

Heart & Vascular Care
“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.”

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.

In the end, Don’s choice was easy. “My inspiration to live was my beautiful granddaughter, 4-year-old Cheyenna,” said Don. “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.

“Don is exactly the type of patient we want to help,” remarked Dr. Danielson. “He couldn’t wait around for a heart transplant, and he wanted to receive all of his advanced heart failure therapy near home versus having to repeatedly travel to the Twin Cities. 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 the way, assisting with everything from changing his dressings and tidying up his home to watching Cheyenna.

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 grow up a little more each day.

For details about our heart failure services, call 320-656-7020.