Valley man makes rare recovery after COVID-19 heart failure

Tiffany Olin Image
Saturday, June 1, 2024
Rare heart healing after COVID-19 heart failure
A Central Valley man now has a second chance at life after a battle with COVID-19 left him with heart failure.

CLOVIS, Calif. (KFSN) -- A Central Valley man now has a second chance at life after a battle with COVID-19 left him with heart failure.

With the help of physicians at Clovis Community Medical Center (CCMC), Gary Hill's heart has healed.

"I got a second chance," Gary Hill said. "I got a second chance that most people that have what I had, you don't get."

Back in 2021, he the 55-year-old almost died battling COVID-19 as the virus attacked his vital organ.

"The ICU doctor took me aside and said, 'Do you realize how sick he is?' and I said, 'He's pretty sick' and he goes, 'No he's really sick. If he would've been home another week, he would've been dead,'" Gary's wife Dana Hill recalled.

"It was shocking," Gary said.

"I think we were both in denial for a while," Dana added.

Hill needed a new heart, but getting on the wait list takes time that he didn't have.

Surgeons at Clovis Community Medical Center then decided to give Gary a left ventricle assist device or L-VAD-a pump used for patients who have reached end-of-stage heart failure and need time before a heart transplant.

Gary had L-VAD surgery in November of 2021.

While waiting for a transplant, his heart began to heal and physicians decided to take the next step.

"Dr. Khwaja happened to be doing rounds that day and he goes, 'yeah we're taking it out,'" Hill recalled. "So then it was a battery of test to make sure my heart wasn't going to convert back to congestive heart failure."

After nearly two years of different procedures to prove his heart had healed, his L-VAD was removed in April -an experience that -according to the Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation- only happens to 1-2% of patients in his situation.

"It's very rare to have a pump removed and so it's the first case where we actually took a pump out here in the valley," director of heart surgery at CCMC, Dr. Shamsuddin Khwaja said.

"Oh I'm ecstatic," Hill said.

He now thanks God, his doctors and family for his life.

On Friday, the physicians presented Gary with the L-VAD that kept him alive.

In the past, surgeries like his had to be done in San Francisco, Sacramento or LA.

Now-- Clovis community medical center has the team and resources to do it all here in the valley.

Doctors say this is a big accomplishment for the hospital and their team.

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