Congestive heart failure occurs when your heart doesn’t pump blood as well as it should. Heart failure commonly develops after other conditions have damaged or weakened your heart. It can also occur if the heart becomes too stiff. In heart failure, the main pumping chambers of your heart (the ventricles) may become stiff and not fill correctly between beats.
In some cases, your heart may become damaged, and the ventricles stretch to the point that the heart can’t pump blood efficiently throughout your body. Generally, heart failure begins with the left side, specifically the left ventricle. My dad had left-sided heart failure, which led to fluid backing up in his lungs, causing shortness of breath.
He had congestive heart failure since he was born. As he got older, his condition worsened. He had his first heart attack when he was 10, and had a pacemaker installed. The pacemaker helps the heart beat more regularly, and it helps your body get the blood and oxygen it needs. My dad had a pacemaker for 33 years.
At age 43, my dad became ill. He was hospitalized for a few months. His doctor had a LVAD (left ventricular assist device) surgically implanted. The LVAD helps the left ventricle pump blood to the rest of the body. A couple weeks after the surgery, he was able to come home. Then the LVAD stopped working, and he was back at the hospital.
After that he got a total artificial heart. That’s a man-made heart made to replace the biological heart while a patient waits for a heart transplant.
But after the total artificial heart was installed, my dad could not leave the hospital. After months of being on the transplant list for a new heart, my dad was finally 1A on the list, which meant he was first and the next heart that was available was his. He got the news on Aug. 6, 2013, and went in for surgery later that night. He died Aug. 7, 2013. I still think about him every day.
In memory of Russell K. Housman — Aug. 22, 1967, to Aug. 7, 2013
Karen Landsman’s sixth-grade class, Polk Street Elementary School, Franklin Square