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In This Issue:
When avid traveler and retired teacher Jim Carelli Jr. was
diagnosed with cardiac senile amyloidosis almost 18 months ago, his active
lifestyle came to a halt.
The disorder caused deposits of abnormal protein in
Carelli's heart tissue, making it difficult for his heart to work. Carelli
needed a transplant to save his life, but a donor wasn't available. His BWH
care team realized the only option for survival was to remove the 66-year-old's
heart and replace it with a Total Artificial Heart as a bridge to transplant,
making BWH the first hospital in New England to perform such a procedure.
"If I didn't have this device, I probably would have ended
up dying," said Carelli, a Holbrook resident who taught science in the
Braintree public school system for 32 years and also coached the girls' high
school track and field team.
Gregory Couper, MD, surgical director of the BWH Heart
Transplant and Mechanical Circulatory Support Program, and a surgical team
performed Carelli's procedure in February, removing his damaged heart and
replacing it with an artificial heart.
Carelli's artificial heart works just like a human heart by
pumping blood through the body, but it's powered by a 418-pound driver, known
affectionately as "Big Blue." The driver regulates the artificial heart rate
and blood flow. Other artificial heart patients around the country have been
able to leave the hospital with a smaller device called a "freedom driver," but
that wasn't possible for Carelli because he is on dialysis to support kidney
Heart failure affects nearly 6 million people in the U.S.,
and while about 100,000 of those patients might benefit from a heart
transplant, donor hearts are available for only about 2,000 people in this
country per year, explained Michael Givertz, MD, medical director of the Heart
Transplant and Mechanical Circulatory Support Program.
"With this new
procedure here at the Brigham, we're able to provide a bridge to transplant
while Mr. Carelli waits for a donor," Givertz said.
Carelli said the support of his family, including his wife,
Jane; sister, Kathy; and mother, Lucy, has helped him through this ordeal.
"Jane is my ‘rock angel,'" Carelli said. "Her spirit is solid
as a rock, and she's my angel because she is here every day, helping any way
Carelli has also received incredible support from his care
team, including Katie Carroll, RN, and Kayla Quinn, RN, who happen to be his
former students and athletes at Braintree High School.
For Carelli, undergoing this procedure is just the beginning
of the road to recovery. Now, he waits for a donor who will provide a heart and
"I'm glad people will realize that if you have a serious
heart problem, you now have an alternative with this device," Carelli said. "It
might take months to get a donor, but at least you'll get through it. This
procedure provides great hope, which matters because sometimes people have no
hope at all."
View photos of Mr. Carelli before, during and after his procedureRead a message from BW/F President Betsy Nabel, MD, about the total artificial heart
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