PALM BEACH GARDENS – John Hays had his first heart attack at age 35.
He had his second three decades later while mountain biking in Dyer Park.
A former triathlete and grandfather of two, the 65-year-old North Palm Beach resident went home before being transported to nearby Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center, where doctors saved his life by using cutting-edge technology called an Impella 5.5 with SmartAssist heart pump.
More: Q&A: Palm Beach Gardens doctor reveals what he’s learned in six months of COVID-19 care
The device, which is temporarily implanted in a patient’s heart during surgery, enables heart recovery in patients whose hearts are too weak to effectively pump blood on their own after a heart attack.
It works by reducing the heart’s workload and oxygen demand, allowing it to rest and recover while supplying blood and oxygen to the patient’s other vital organs.
Patients are able to walk just 24 hours after surgery, said Dr. Nishant Patel, a cardiothoracic surgeon who performed Hays’ surgery Aug. 31.
Patel is the first surgeon in Florida to perform heart surgery using the Impella 5.5 with SmartAssist, according to Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center, and Hays was the first patient to receive it.
“Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center is always a leading provider in cardiovascular care in Palm Beach County, and aims to provide the most advanced care to our patients,” Patel said.
More: ‘We’re grateful she’s here’: Gardens hospital saves woman stricken by massive blood clot
“Adding the Impella 5.5 with SmartAssist technology to our cardiovascular services means we can provide a new option to patients whose hearts are too weak to effectively pump blood on their own after a heart attack. This gives severely ill patients the best chance to recover and return home with a good long-term quality of life.”
Hays has a family history of heart problems, but after his first heart attack 30 years ago followed by several years of reoccurring issues, he got serious about his health.
He began exercising more, changed his diet and quit smoking.
“I had a long period of about 17 years where I didn’t have any problems,” he said.
That changed a couple of years ago, when Hays needed multiple stenting procedures to clear blocked or narrowed arteries in his heart.
A second heart attack happened anyway, followed by triple bypass surgery six days later.
Doctors didn’t implant the Impella 5.5 immediately, instead using an intra-aortic balloon pump to help improve the blood flow in Hays’ heart while he awaited surgery.
“We wanted the heart to become less irritable before doing the bypass surgery,” Patel said.
Hays’ surgery using the Impella 5.5 was successful, and he was walking the halls within 24 hours.
“It’s a really great and novel use of this device in a patient like this,” Patel said.
The device was removed about a week later after Hays’ heart began pumping on its own, and he was sent home to begin rehabilitation.
Hays said he is feeling good two months after surgery, and he is walking about four miles every other day with the goal of getting back on his bike soon.
He also is taking a cocktail of medication to help aid his recovery, and he is hopeful his heart function will continue to improve.
“The Impella definitely affected my outcome,” he said. “I have a much better chance of recovery.”
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: New heart pump technology helps aid recovery in heart attack patients