In the fourth episode of unscripted, our new patient video series, David Barber talks about his experience with heart failure and the device that changed everything.
This is David's story, in his own words ... unscripted.
I was raised predominantly in Middletown, Ohio, Madison Township to be precise. Grew up in the country. The house that I remember best, we had a creek running through the front yard, so most of my days were spent outside kind of as a country kid. Played spots, rode bikes, just kind of a normal childhood upbringing.
My dad got sick when I was in high school. He was recommended to a good cardiologist in his area in southern Kentucky. Within a few days he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and they knew he needed to be on the heart transplant list. I was 19, 20 year old when all of that was happening. It was pretty overwhelming. When he said he was going to be on the transplant list I remember thinking, he had been sick for so long and you thought, "Well finally, they can do something about it."
Facing heart failure
In the winter of, it would have been 2015, I had kind of lost the ability to read anything longer than a couple paragraphs. Nothing could hold my attention, just kind of scatterbrained.
For me to go from the basement to the upstairs was impossible. I would have to plan. Take something as simple as taking the garbage out, I would know that I would need recovery time, just total fatigue in every possible way. The diagnosis was almost immediate, that I had congestive heart failure. On the day of diagnosis Dr. O'Brien ran through the possibilities, ICD, the implantable defibrilator, VAD (ventricular assist device), and eventually possibly a heart transplant as well. After a couple years of pharmaceutical treatments it was necessary for me to get a VAD.
Life with a VAD
The VAD implant was done May 15, 2017. It didn't take long before I realized that I felt better. I could already tell even a couple days after, I could already tell that my lung capacity was increasing. My brain literally functioned better because of the increased blood flow. It was amazing to feel alive again.
I've often told people, I didn't realize how bad I felt until I felt better, and now looking back it's stunning how bad I felt. My controller is currently being stored right here, and then I have two batteries. One battery is in this side pocket and the other battery in this pants pocket. People will ask questions from time to time, strange looks. It doesn't bother me. It's the price I pay for feeling better. If someone asks, it's a story worth telling.
Finding support and sharing it with others
Kelly, my girlfriend, has been unbelievably supportive through the whole process. I literally can't come up with words that describe what her support and care has been like, and then having a dad who lived through the same procedure and the same process and is still alive today, 22 years later. Just having him as a resource, you know, "Hey did you ever feel like this?" Or, "What was this like?" I can go to him with any questions.
They took care of everything when I couldn't take care of myself. I've been on the heart transplant list for around two months. It's not that big a deal, except I just can't stray far from home. It doesn't really add anything to my life or take anything away so to speak. I just have to be ready for the phone to ring.
There are people out there in more desperate need of a heart than I am. So my time will come. Having congestive heart failure as we've talked about is so abnormal. The feelings, the way your body feels is so abnormal. That's a difficult thing to describe to people but that's the main thing that I try to tell folks, is that I feel so much better. I don't even have words for it. Normal life is good. Just being able to exist in the world without feeling terrible is good.
Learn more about how our heart failure experts can help you or a loved one. Or click to read more stories about patients thriving with heart failure, thanks to the VAD.