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Suffolk Woman Receives Lifesaving Heart Device At Stony Brook University Heart Center, Gains New Lease On Life

Suffolk Woman Receives Lifesaving Heart Device At Stony Brook University Heart Center, Gains New Lease On Life

Susan Neikens is first woman implanted with a LVAD at a hospital on Long Island

STONY BROOK, N.Y., July 6, 2011 – As Susan Neikens, 63, of Mastic Beach, N.Y., grew weaker and weaker over past year 

Susan Neikens, holds the controls of her left ventricular assist device (LVAD), during her first appointment with her cardiologist, Dr. James Semertzides, M.D., of Long Island Cardiology Associates, since the lifesaving device was implanted in her by specialists at the Stony Brook University Heart Center.

due to advancing heart failure, her treatment options along with quality of life dwindled. But the retired nurse’s cardiologist, James Semertzides, M.D., of Long Island Cardiology Associates in East Patchogue, referred her for an evaluation at the Stony Brook University Heart Center, where specialists determined she was a candidate to receive a left ventricular assist device (LVAD). The Stony Brook team implanted a LVAD in Ms. Neikens on April 27, and she became the first woman to receive the lifesaving device at a hospital on Long Island.

“I am breathing much more comfortably, have a higher energy level, swelling has disappeared, have returned to walking, and can do more than I have been able to in years,” says Ms. Neikens, who described these enormous improvements in her health after the LVAD implant as nothing short of a miracle. “Having an LVAD gives me another chance at life and hope for the future.”

“A LVAD is a high-tech device attached to the heart and aorta, inside the body, to assist pumping of the heart’s left chamber,” says Allison J. McLarty, M.D., Associate Professor of Surgery, and Co-Director of  SBU Heart Center’s Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) Program.
“The device represents a new generation of artificial heart technology and can be used as an intermediary step before heart transplantation or to last long-term in patients with advanced heart disease who are not transplant candidates.”

In 2010, the SBU Heart Center was the first on Long Island to implant a LVAD in a patient. Specialists through the VAD Program have so far successfully implanted five patients with the device.

“Susan’s heart strength was in a stage of rapid deterioration,” says Hal Skopicki, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine, Director of Stony Brook’s Heart Failure Program, and Co-Director of the VAD Program. “Her organs were shutting down and her heart required extraordinary measures to provide the bare minimum of function to just keep her alive. Implanting the LVAD was not only lifesaving but has offered her a markedly improved quality of life every day.”

“Susan was on a path to certain death due to heart failure, but now she has come back to life only to be energized to walk on her own, without much effort, and talk about planning a family trip,” says Dr. Semertzides. “I had tears in my eyes for her upon her examination after the procedure. Thanks to the Stony Brook University Heart Center team, their professionalism and expertise with LVADs, new ground is being broken in treating patients like Susan. This provides real hope and a future for patients who otherwise would not have a future.”

According to Ms. Neikens, before deciding to go ahead with the LVAD implantation, she read extensively about the LVAD and even met with patients at the Heart Center who previously had LVADs implanted. After careful consideration and weighing her treatment options, Ms. Neikens says, “I went for it, and I am glad I did.”

About Stony Brook University Heart Center:

Stony Brook University Heart Center is located within Long Island’s only university-based medical center. The Heart Center at Stony Brook offers a comprehensive, multidisciplinary program for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease. The staff includes 50 full-time and community-based, board-certified cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons, as well as 350 specially trained anesthesiologists, nurses, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, respiratory therapists, operating room technicians, perfusionists, and other support staff. Their combined expertise provides state-of-the-art interventional and surgical capabilities in 24-hour cardiac catheterization labs and surgical suites. And while the Heart Center clinical staff offers the latest advances in medicine, its physician-scientists are also actively enhancing knowledge of the heart and blood vessels through basic biomedical studies and clinical research. 


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