Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A month after surgery, Edmonton, Alberta heart transplant patient runs with family

Duane Muth received a new heart 30 days ago. Duane ran/walked the 1 km race in the Heartbeat run for the Mazankowski Heart Institute on Sunday, September 26, 2010, at Louise McKinney Park in Edmonton. Tracy Muth is Duane's wife.

Photograph by: Brian J. Gavriloff,

By Andrea Sands Edmonton

EDMONTON — Just one month ago, Duane Muth was in surgery at the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute having someone else’s heart transplanted into his chest.

That heart carried him across the finish line Saturday at the Edmonton Heartbeat Run in Louise McKinney Park. It was an impressive feat for a man so sick last year he wasn’t even eligible for a transplant.

But a life-saving device called the Heartmate II along with stellar care at the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute and a lot of hard work turned everything around for the Sherwood Park father of three.

“I’m elated. Next year I’m doing the 5K (run),” Muth said after completing the one-kilometre walk and run Saturday with his family.

“My legs are burning more than anything. Walking was a piece of cake. The running ... hills have always been my nemesis.”

Muth has been on medication for a heart condition most of his life. He was diagnosed at age 23 with cardiomyopathy and an enlarged heart muscle as well as pulmonary hypertension, with high pressure in the pulmonary artery between his heart and lungs.

Muth reached his late 40s and had to give up golf, skiing, tennis and even walking his sons to the bus in the morning. He runs his own company repairing and maintaining medical and laboratory equipment and often had to stop to rest while walking from his car to the job site.

“I was going to work on one of the blood-gas machines (at the Grey Nuns Hospital) and I fainted so they had to admit me.”

Muth’s heart was failing.

Last September, Muth asked to be evaluated for a transplant. The news was bad. His lung pressures were so high medical experts knew a transplanted heart would probably fail. They couldn’t put him on the transplant waiting list. Muth was immediately admitted to hospital.

Then the medical team gave him a different option. There was a chance that implanting a ventricular assist device (VAD) might remodel Muth’s pulmonary vessels enough to reduce the lung pressures, making him a transplant candidate, explained the heart institute’s VAD co-ordinator Selvi Sinnadurai.

“Duane was really super sick when we met him,” she said. “He was even being considered for a double-lung, heart transplant. That’s how sick he was ... so we were consulted as a team to implant a ventricular assist device.”

In November, medical experts implanted a Heartmate II just below Muth’s heart. The device measures about three inches long and weighs less than one pound, with a cable that passes through the patient’s skin to an external controller.

The Heartmate II is designed to help the left side of the heart circulate oxygen-rich blood in patients suffering from advanced heart failure.

“What we hoped for him is that, by unloading the left side of the heart, we would indirectly unload his lungs and decrease the pressures in his lungs,” Sinnadurai said.

“A treatment like this isn’t done often so we all hoped for the best.”

The results were dramatic. He was able to return to work and travel, she said.

In June, Muth was listed as awaiting a donor heart. On Aug. 27, he got it.

Today, Muth celebrates his 52nd birthday.

“I feel privileged to be here and very grateful to everyone, including the donor family and the heart institute,” he said. “Edmonton is probably one of the best places in the world to be living with a heart condition, and I’m living proof of that. I would encourage everyone to sign their donor cards.”

Muth’s 44-year-old wife Tracy said her husband’s energy level is remarkable.

“He’s always been very positive, but when you’re sick, it’s hard,” she said.

“He told me the other day that there’s not a thing I could say to him that would make him feel bad.”

To show the family’s gratitude, Tracy and the kids, 11-year-old Alex and nine-year-old twins Aidan and Isaak, signed up for the Heartbeat Run, a fundraiser for the heart institute through the University of Alberta Hospital Foundation. A few days ago, Muth decided to join them.

“I said, ‘If I feel really good, I’ll sprint for the last 100 yards,’ and Tracy laughed, because I haven’t been able to run in 20 years,” he said.

“If I wouldn’t have had the (VAD) pump I wouldn’t be here with a new heart. The pump is pretty remarkable.”

“The pump was made for you, Dad,” Alex chimed in.

Alex said he is looking forward to finally playing sports with his dad — hockey, golf, swimming and more.

“We’ll get something back in all of our lives,” Alex said. “It’s an amazing case. Just one month ago, they called at 5 a.m. and said they had a heart for him. I’m just glad he’s here today.”

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Rob Nerbas said...

Congratulations Duane, I you enjoy health and happiness.

Rob Nerbas

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