On June 5, the Telus Spark science centre unveiled a new exhibit titled “The Tin Man” in partnership with the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta showcasing heart patient Scott Ouellette’s ventricular assist device (VAD). A VAD is a mechanical unit the size of a hockey puck that’s implanted onto the heart to help the failing ventricle pump blood through the body.
Four years ago, at 28, Ouellette suffered a massive heart attack due to two blocked arteries. While he waited for a heart transplant, he lived with a VAD. The actual device which kept him alive for 113 days until the operation is on display, along with his Tinman hockey goalie mask and personal scrapbook in the Being Human gallery upstairs until August 31.
“It helped save my life,” says Ouellette. “I was able to golf with the machine implanted, to do things that most people don’t dream of doing in their life, let alone, on a heart machine.”
Now 33, he says he feels stronger than ever and is golfing every weekend and playing hockey again. As an advocate for organ donation, he’s also currently training for the 2012 Canadian Transplant Games in Calgary July 16-22.
“The Libin Institute took so much care and time to make sure I would get better, right from deciding to go with this machine, which was cutting-edge back in 2008, to the day they took it out,” he says. Libin member Dr. Paul Fedak was Ouellette’s cardiac surgeon.
At the press conference which unveiled the exhibit, Dr. Imtiaz Ali, Chief of Cardiac Surgery at the Libin Cardiovascular Institute spoke of how these heart-saving devices are typically reserved for patients with severe heart failure.
“At the Libin Cardiovascular Institute, we implant about five to seven of these devices per year,” says Dr. Ali. “The vast majority of the time, we are implanting them with the plan to bridge the patient through to transplant.”
In addition to showcasing the life-saving technology and Ouellette’s personal story, the display will address the importance of considering organ donation. On June 14, Ouellete and Dr. Paul Fedak will give a presentation at Telus Spark’s Adults Only Night. The talk, open to the public, will cover the advances in surgical approaches to heart failure including VADS, transplants and other innovations.
Read, listen and watch more local news coverage on the exhibit here: