In the third episode of unscripted, our new patient video series, see how Denise Williams' life was changed by a life-saving heart device, and the unusual outcome that allowed her to see the birth of her first grandchild.
This is Denise's story, in her own words ... unscripted.
Born and raised in Cincinnati. My mom had six children. It was a struggle, my life. I got married at 16. I had a set of twins at 16, so I went from my mom's house to my husband's house, and I learned from that point forward to grow up and be a mom and a wife. From 16 until 32, I worked. I took care of my kids. I didn't depend on the system, and I did what I thought I should do as a mom. I have four children, and three of them are high school graduates, and one is the Marines, and my other one, he's just in the second grade, so still working on that one. I think I did a good job.
When something went wrong
I choreographed dance at church, and my son, he was maybe 11 at the time, and we did a song together, a duet. After I did that one, I was tired. I was exhausted. I couldn't move, and I worked at the doctor's office, a medical assistant. I went to work, and I thought I had the flu. I said, "Can you just check me? I think I have the flu or something," and she listened to my heart, and then that's when everything just went downhill. She said, "We have to get an echo." I said, "An echo, for what?" I went that day, and she came back out the room and she was crying. That's when I panicked, because when a doctor cries, then of course you panic. You know there's something wrong.
My life as a mom and a wife changed everything because I was sick. I couldn't take care of myself. I couldn't comb my hair. My arms were so weak and tired. I couldn't do basic stuff, stir a pot of chili, and couldn't do anything. Everything that I know, I've only known in my life to work and provide for your family. When I got sick, I lost everything. I lost my house. I lost my cars. I lost everything. Everything just went wrong.
The tides began to turn
Around the time when I met Dr. Egnacyzk, I think I was probably at my wit's end. I wanted to give up. I called him and I told him, "I don't think I'm going to make it. I don't feel well." I couldn't breathe. He said, "Well, we have this thing that we could probably try. Come in." That's when I finally met the LVAD (left ventricular assist device) team.
Me and my babies were like, "There's no way. There's no way." I told them, I said, "I don't want to get this surgery, so I guess we're done, because I'm not getting the surgery." They said, "If you don't get the surgery, you won't survive." Once my son came up, he said, "Mom, don't worry. If you keep your hand in my hand, and my hand is in God's hand, you'll be okay." I told all of the hospital staff, "We have to do whatever we need to do so I can be here. I want to see my children get married and graduate, all of them graduate from high school and enjoy my grand babies." My doctor, my favorite. I don't know what else to say.
One in a thousand
Dr. Gregory Egnaczyk: You look good. It usually happens about one in a 1,000 times, that these pumps are put in that we can actually recover and heal the heart enough that we can explant it, so very infrequently. With you, it was that the heart was getting sicker, it was getting weaker, it was getting enlarged, and despite all the medicines we had you on, you still had trouble with heart failure. We were able to put the pump in, and with that, gave the heart the time to rest and we found that on looking at the heart on echocardiogram, it was getting stronger and smaller.
Denise: I don't know. It's crazy. When I think about it, it just makes me want to cry, because it's amazing. You go from being sick, not able to walk 13 steps, to being able to actually get around. Once I got rid of the LVAD and healed, I could wear a dress. I really missed wearing a dress. Everything changed, and I feel better. I can walk a flight of steps. I don't use an elevator. I walk up the steps. I went to King's Island and I walked the park several times. I went to Vegas and I walked the strip. I wasn't able to do that a couple years ago.
A reason to believe
My situation has changed a lot of people's lives, because where they didn't believe in miracles and didn't believe anything good would come out of a bad situation, I see myself as a walking miracle. I should have been dead at least three years ago, but I'm still here. You have to live life to its fullest. If you don't, you miss out. Being sick for so long, it took away so much. My attitude now is I want to be happy. I need to start doing things that makes me happy, and that's what I'm trying to do.
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 LVAD.