The human heart is an incredible organ. It beats around 100,000 times a day, and in your lifetime, it will beat more than 2.5 billion times. Because it creates its own electrical impulse, it can beat when it gets separated from the body. All it needs is enough oxygen. This is good news! Why? Because your heart is responsible for keeping you alive. You want it to keep going no matter what.

Despite the heart’s elite design and ability to maintain itself, it can still suffer from issues. We’re talking about heart failure, a gradual wearing out of the heart that happens when undue strain is put on it. It is commonly the result of lifestyle, genetics, or a combination of the two. As we said in our last blog, heart failure usually doesn’t come on suddenly. Instead, it happens over time because your heart is a powerful organ that can grow itself bigger and bigger to try to cope. Unfortunately, getting bigger doesn’t solve the problem; it just makes your heart less efficient. If things get bad enough, you may need a whole new heart. That is where a left ventricle assist device (LVAD) can be the perfect solution. It helps your heart pump blood, allowing your heart to recover or helping you survive until a heart transplant can be found for you.

In our last blog, we answered a few basic questions about LVADs, including why people use them. In today’s blog, we’re going to dive into life with LVADs and answer some of the most common questions people ask us.

Can I stop taking my medications?

Not unless your doctor specifically tells you to. Otherwise, you should continue taking any and all of your heart failure medications, including blood pressure medications and diuretics. You may find that your doctor changes your dosages or the type of medications you take. Overall, your doctor should monitor your vital signs, medications, and heart function to make sure that your LVAD is providing the optimum support. Our home health care can help with this process, bringing careful evaluation to your home so you can rest assured that everything is set.

Am I allowed to exercise when I have a LVAD?

Absolutely! Activity is one of the best things for your heart as well as the rest of your body. Follow the guidelines your doctor provides. Chances are good you’ll be able to do anything except contact sports and swimming. Keep in mind that getting a LVAD installed is significant surgery, so you’ll probably feel very tired and weak when you get home. Make sure you have our home health care services on your side to prevent having to go back to the hospital. Start activity slowly and ramp up with the guidance of your doctor. Getting back to living a full life can seem too far away, but keep your chin up. You will get there!

There’s a line coming out of my chest/abdomen. How do I take care of it?

The line coming out of you is called a driveline. It connects the LVAD pump to the controller. The point at which it comes out of your body is called the exit site. This can be an unnerving thing to see, but if that makes you pay attention to it, all the better. The exit site has a high risk of infection and needs very special care. Keep in mind that any movement of the line can cause irritation, which can lead to infection. When an infection sets into an exit site, it’s very difficult to solve. Basically, you should not be caring for your exit site alone. Get the help of a professional caregiver trained to take care of LVADs. We are proud to be fully trained on LVAD care, and we can come straight to you Houston home.

What about intimacy with my partner?

Having a LVAD doesn’t mean you can be intimate with your partner. You’ll need to take things slowly and figure out how to enjoy each other without putting pressure or excessive movement on the exit site of your driveline. Most importantly, if you are a woman in childbearing years, remember that you cannot get pregnant with a LVAD. There’s no way to regulate blood thinners when you are pregnant.

Can I swim with a LVAD?

While you’ll be able to shower once your incisions are healed, you’ll need to do so with a bag provided just for protecting your LVAD equipment. Your LVAD uses electrical current to keep your heart pumping, so it cannot be submerged. Unfortunately, that means no swimming. Hopefully, future innovations will create LVAD waterproof LVAD systems that will make showering and swimming easy.

At Justice Healthcare, we are passionate about bringing world-class care into Houston homes. We are fully trained in LVAD care, so contact us today to learn more!

Read Part 3