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Heart Care with Advanced Technology and Research

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What started one day as severe leg pain quickly progressed to a life-threatening situation for Roderick Shirley – one he was lucky to survive.

With his right leg swollen to twice its normal size, Roderick and his wife, Elsie, hurried to AdventHealth Tampa, where a team of vascular experts began a procedure to remove multiple blood clots from his leg. During the process, Roderick went into cardiac arrest, thought to have been caused by a pulmonary embolism. Performing CPR, the team resuscitated Roderick but had to place him on a breathing machine and give him medications to raise his blood pressure. It was only a temporary solution — Roderick’s condition remained critical.

“Mortality from cardiac arrests after an embolism in the lungs is extremely high,” says Omid Zad, MD, ICU medical director. “Most patients do not survive.”

Dr. Zad, who was helping to coordinate Roderick’s care, contacted interventional and structural cardiologist, Oliver Abela, MD, FACC, to inform him about Roderick’s condition and see what could be done. Dr. Abela is one of the few cardiologists in the country who is fellowship trained and board-certified in both interventional cardiology and advanced heart failure. He has worked with mechanical circulatory support devices since their first generations and believed the Impella RP Flex would give Roderick’s heart the opportunity it needed to recover.

“The Impella device does the work of the heart in the chamber that you are placing it in,” Dr. Abela explains. “It pulls blood from the main pumping chamber and pushes it out into the main vessel or artery, beyond the heart. The pump is doing the work, and the heart can rest.”

Today, Roderick is back to enjoying life and doesn’t feel limited in what he can do, but he and his wife won’t soon forget his experience and the care he received at AdventHealth Tampa. “Dr. Abela saved my husband’s life,” Elsie says. “The staff and Dr. Abela … they were so diligent. I don’t have words to tell you how grateful we are, because they did everything to save my husband’s life … They were all outstanding. They made us feel very special and loved.”

Dr. Abela says that it’s been amazing to see how using tools like the Impella device, in addition to medications, has made such a difference: “Many patients that most of our team members thought maybe wouldn’t make it through these types of critical situations have recovered to full recovery.” The leading-edge technology and expertise available at AdventHealth in West Florida make incredible success stories like Roderick’s possible. The Pepin Heart Institute at AdventHealth Tampa has a newly opened, dedicated heart failure unit to provide advanced monitoring to patients. The 20-bed unit allows AdventHealth’s team of experts to offer advanced therapies and highly specialized care to patients who have the most advanced stages of heart disease.

With access to mechanical therapy support, physicians can keep a heart beating, lowering the need for a heart transplant or improving a transplant patient’s health while they wait for a new heart.

Drs. Gus Agocha, JaMia Washington, Oliver Abela and Rozales Swanson are leading the heart failure program of AdventHealth Tampa and are part of a team of more than 70 board-certified cardiologists and providers serving patients in the West Florida area.

AdventHealth Tampa’s heart failure unit is the capstone of a larger program that also includes the most state-of-the-art monitoring equipment, such as CardioMEMS HF System technology — a small, implanted device that sends heart data through Bluetooth inside a pillow — as well as heart success clinics with dedicated staff who see patients within seven days of a hospital stay, lowering their chance of returning to the hospital.

“AdventHealth is committed to elevating cardiovascular care at AdventHealth Tampa, our tertiary hospital, and throughout West Florida. The AdventHealth West Florida Cardiovascular Institute helps us to ensure superior quality outcomes at hospitals across the region, through the guidance of multidisciplinary teams as well as shared research and technological advancements,” says the institute’s medical director, Charles Lambert, MD.

In the world of heart care, AdventHealth is guiding the way with groundbreaking research conducted by the AdventHealth Cardiovascular Institute. Dr. Abela is a lead researcher with the ECP Continued Access Program Study, which is working to understand the safety and effectiveness of the Impella ECP, otherwise known as the world’s smallest heart pump. During the study, patients undergo a procedure where the Impella ECP is inserted through a special tube that helps doctors place the pump into the heart without major surgery. Once the heart procedure is done, the pump is taken out, and patients are watched closely for 30 days to make sure they recover well. Dr. Abela has finished one part of the study and is now progressing into the next phase. His work will likely result in new, leading-edge techniques for treating heart problems all over the world.

As Roderick’s story shows, heart problems can come on quickly. Every 40 seconds, someone in America has a heart attack. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for nearly one million deaths each year and claiming more lives than all forms of cancer combined. It’s important to know the signs of heart failure, like shortness of breath, chronic coughing or wheezing, swelling in your legs or feet, dizziness, nausea or lack of appetite, and exhaustion.

Make sure your heart health is in expert hands, with specialists who have the skill, commitment and compassion to give you the finest possible heart care. In addition to offering leading-edge technology, research and care, every AdventHealth hospital in Highlands, Hardee, Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Pasco counties has earned heart failure accreditation from the American College of Cardiology, ensuring a higher level of care to residents across West Florida.

AdventHealth cardiac specialists will be at your side at every step from diagnosis to recovery and beyond — supporting your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs throughout your journey. To entrust your heart health to the experts, visit AdventHealthCardiovascularInstitute.com.

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