Jessica Green had been living with a damaged heart for as long as she can remember. At fifteen she was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, and by twenty-one she had a pacemaker. But Jessica never let those things slow her down. She would run, play volleyball, and shoot hoops without issue. Until everything changed just before her twenty-ninth birthday.
“I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t breathe. It felt like somebody was like crushing my chest really bad.”
Oh, I was bad. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t breathe. It felt like somebody was like crushing my chest really bad. Like I was gasping for air to breathe. I had to kneel down in a praying position to sleep. So I was sleeping on my knees on my floor like over my bed to get the air through.
Doctors at Montefiore discovered Jessica’s heart was pumping at just 5 percent of capacity.
“Her quality of life and her survival was measured in weeks to months at best.”
Daniel Goldstein, MD.
She had a drastic deterioration of her condition and her quality of life and her survival was measured in weeks to months at best.
Jessica’s only chance of survival was immediate surgery to receive a left ventricular assist device(LVAD), an implanted mechanical pump designed to help her weakened heart circulate blood throughout her body.
The machine is internal, like a pacemaker. Nobody sees it or hears it or feels it, not even the patient.
“I cried. I was scared because I didn’t know about the machine at first...It was just a little nerve-racking.”
I cried. I was scared because I didn’t know about the machine at first. You have batteries last for 10 hours. You have to change them. You can’t forget. [And] the cord coming out of your stomach. You have to watch out for that. So it was just a little nerve-racking. But then I said, “you know what, Jessica, if it’s gonna save my life, we’re gonna do it.”
The LVAD dramatically changed Jessica’s life. No longer weak and winded, she was able to resume most of the activities she loves. She even began volunteering at Montefiore, counseling patients going through the same cardiac issues she had dealt with.
“I tell them, ‘don’t give up... there’s nothing to worry about.’”
I do so much for my hospital because I appreciate what they’ve done for me. I go around speaking to patients on LVAD. I help them through it because it’s hard. And I tell them, “don’t give up. You’ll be scared at first, but there’s nothing to worry about. Even though you got this device, you don’t give up.”
Though Jessica’s health was vastly improved, her LVAD was just a temporary fix. The only permanent solution would be a heart transplant. But before she could be added to the national transplant list, she would have to lose some weight.
“We know that morbid obesity is a problem for transplant patients. So all transplant programs have a limit, a cut-off on what we call BMI, body mass index. Above that cut-off we don’t offer transplants. So Montefiore has a team of nutritionists and exercise physiologists that can help patients lose the weight. And if that doesn’t work, we can also offer patients bariatric surgery designed to reduce the size of the stomach in order to lose weight. At Montefiore, we have the largest bariatric surgery program in the country, having done over 1,300 last year.” Daniel Goldstein M.D
Within months, Jessica lost over 100 pounds and had her name added to the national heart transplant list. And then, after four long years of waiting, Jessica finally received the fully functioning heart she had always dreamed of
“I’m so lucky to get a second chance. I’m so thankful. I’m so happy. Thank you, Montefiore.”
Meet Dr. Daniel Goldstein
Daniel Goldstein MD
Professor, Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery
Vice Chairman, Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery,
Director, Mechanical Assistance Program
Co-Director, Center for Advanced Cardiac Therapy
Surgical Director of Cardiac Transplantation