Thirteen years ago, Gwen Sweatt began having complications with her lungs.
"Last August I kind of took a plunge," Sweatt explained.
Sweatt was diagnosed with: Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, or IPF.
"They say it's fatal," said Sweatt. "Thirteen years ago doctors gave me two-to-five years."
IPF is a disease of inflammation that results in scarring, or fibrosis, of the lungs. Doctors say, over time, the fibrosis can build up to the point where the lungs are unable to provide oxygen to the tissues of the body. Doctors said Sweatt needed a lung transplant; however, in order to get on that list, she needed a healthier heart. For years, cardiac patients typically had only two options to treat their blocked arteries and restore blood flow to the heart: either open heart surgery or angioplasty.
"It became obvious that her heart had enough problems that she probably wouldn't have made it through a lung transplant," said Cardiologist, Marcel LeChin.
Running out of options, doctors at the College Station Medical Center suggested Sweatt test out the: Impella 2.5. It is called the Impella 2.5 because it is capable of pumping 2.5 liters of blood per minute to support the heart during high risk procedures. It supports a patients cardiac function, while the cardiac surgeon performs an angioplasty.
"It just pumps blood out of the heart and into the general circulation and it can generating about three times as much blood flow as a balloon pump can," LeChin said.
Doctors say it also reduces the risk of death during surgery.
"In the cath-lab we perform interventions where we do balloon procedures and stents and in some cases they are very high risk because their heart is very weak or because during the procedure you are intervening in a vessel that is so big that the whole heart can actually shut down during the procedure," said LeChin.
Understanding the risky procedure, Sweatt says she didn't think twice.
She put her life in the hands of Dr. LeChin and his team inside the cath-lab. Three days after surgery, Sweatt was resilient and walking.
"I think that I have a little bit more energy already," Sweatt said.
"In the past, heart transplantation had been the only choice to help, but now with these new devices you are going to be able to take care of patients longer and help them even though they are terminal," LeChin said.
Contrary to her life expectancy by Houston doctors -- Sweatt is living proof she has beat the odds.
"I like living, I've got great grand kids and family," Sweatt added.
"You are going to be able to start seeing more and more people able to survive heart failure, which is the number one most common cardiovascular problem these days," explained LeChin. "It's really becoming a real burden on the health system, and I think these type of technologies are going to help take better care of them," LeChin said.
Symptoms of IPF:
-Chest pain (occasionally)
-Cough (usually dry)
-Decreased tolerance for activity
-Shortness of breath during activity (this symptom lasts for months or years, and over time may also occur when at rest)
To learn more about IPF and the Impella 2.5, click on the links below.