Scott Johnson’s heart journey began more than three years ago when he had a heart attack.
At the time the Champlin resident didn’t realize what had happened. Fast forward to today and Johnson has a left ventricle assist device (LVAD) which helps his heart pump blood throughout his body while he waits for a heart transplant.
The LVAD is a machine that Johnson wears on his waist that is connected to a pump implanted underneath his heart.
Three years ago, when Johnson’s heart journey began, his doctors originally diagnosed him with pneumonia.
“Five days later I had triple bypass,” he said.
There were complications from the surgery, where Johnson’s heart had trouble beating on its own. Doctors thought they would need to do a heart transplant immediately. A pacemaker was installed one week after the bypass surgery.
Johnson’s heart eventually began beating on its own, allowing time before a transplant was necessary.
Despite not needing an immediate heart transplant, Johnson’s heart was damaged and weakened by everything that had happened.
“We were hoping my heart would get stronger,” Johnson said.
That’s wasn’t the case, however, and a year and a half after his bypass surgery, Johnson had surgery to implant the LVAD.
Since having the LVAD, Johnson’s energy has increased and he is doing just about everything he did prior to needing a heart transplant.
He’s less critical as far as needing a transplant than he was prior to the LVAD.
“I can do everything I want to do with this device,” Johnson said.
He must take care around water, however, and keep a backup machine with him at all times.
“They’re very nervous about me falling in water,” Johnson said with a laugh.
Not only could water cause the battery to malfunction, it could also allow an infection to settle into the area where the line enters his body.
Despite the restrictions, Johnson is grateful for the LVAD, because before that, patients waiting for heart transplants were confined to the hospital, hooked up to huge machines keeping them alive.
“It’s not over,” he said. “I thought myself it might be over numerous times, but I realize it’s not.”
Although he has some family members with heart issues, Johnson attributes his heart attack to going out to eat all the time and eating too much processed foods.
“I try to eat a lot healthier,” he said. “I’m preparing most of my foods.”
Johnson encourages those with heart problems and even those without to watch their sodium levels.
And he shares his story and message with cardiac patients and their families through the Mended Hearts program at Mercy Hospital.
“It’s nice to visit with someone who’s been there,” Johnson said about talking with other cardiac patients.
During his visits, Johnson shares information and resources with patients and their families and also promotes the hospital’s cardiac rehabilitation program.
“They’re phenomenal,” he said about Mercy Hospital’s cardiac center.
Contact Kelly Johnson at [email protected]
Mended Hearts facts
• The group has been operating at Mercy Hospital for more than 20 years.
• There are currently 15 volunteers who visit with heart patients and their families.
For more information, call 763-236-8024.