Max's doctors say he’ll probably be dead within the year. But there is a choice — it’s possible that implantation of a left ventricular assist device, or LVAD, could keep his heart pumping longer and even lead to improved quality of life. But the stakes are high. For some patients it works fantastically well, others experience a disabling stroke, life threatening bleeding, deadly infections or other complications — and for some unlucky patients, these complications can lead to a life worse than death. Either way, the LVAD requires a lot of care, and it means being plugged into a power outlet or a battery pack for the rest of your life.
Why tell this story?
Close to 6 million Americans have congestive heart failure, or CHF, which is just one of the chronic diseases affecting the 90 million Americans who live with serious illness today. These patients and their families and care teams often confront heart-wrenching decisions about treatment options or the withdrawal of treatment. In making these decisions, the people involved have to reconcile quality vs. quantity of life, expense, risks and benefits, and the effects on caregivers and loved ones when the results of choices may be unclear or even unknowable.