Heart to heart: new medical procedure offered in Valley

FRESNO, Calif.

Jose Zabalza, 54, is recovering at Community Regional Medical Center from a procedure that is new to the Valley.

Two-weeks ago he became the first recipient of a Heartmate II, a portable heart pump that passes blood from the left ventricle to the ascending aorta. Everything runs internally with the exception of a battery pack.

When Jose Zabalza arrived at the hospital he suffered from short term memory loss, his liver was failing and his body was retaining water all over. After the surgery doctors said they noticed a very quick turn around for the better.

"It's a very small device. Most of these devices prior to this have been placed, they sit outside the body," said Cardiologist Pervaiz Chaudhry. Chaudhry performed the surgery.

In February the F.D.A. approved this procedure. However, up until November if a patient in the Central Valley wanted the pump they would have to travel to L.A. or San Francisco to get it. Not any more.

"Just by itself putting the device is not that hard of a procedure for a surgeon to learn. It becomes the whole program having the whole team, the system developed that takes care of him," Chaudhry said.

Zabalza is a candidate for a new heart if he chooses not to keep the pump. But according to the American Heart Association only 2,000 donor hearts are available every year for a list that stretches over 150,000 patients.

"The number one cause of heart failure is high blood pressure. Uncontrolled high blood pressure. The Valley's known for that," Chaudhry said.

Still tired from recovery, Zabalza said there is one thing he can not wait to get back to the work that he loves. "I've been a carpenter all of my life," he said.

Dr. Chaudhry said that should be possible in the next three months.

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