Ernie Scruse, a former cross-country runner, remembers the day his regular walk around Springfield’s Forest Park left him literally gasping for air. He struggled to make it up the stairs to his home. “The next morning, it felt like an elephant was jumping on my chest,” Ernie, age 57, says. That’s when he went to Baystate Medical Center.
“When you sit down across from a heart doctor and he tells you your heart is failing, that’s a hard pill to swallow,” Ernie says. His heart was getting worse by the day and given his age, and at the time, he was not a candidate for heart replacement. The skilled team of physicians at the Davis Family Heart & Vascular Center recommended Ernie have surgery to implant an LVAD pump, or Left Ventricular Assist Device, which would keep his heart going.
Beginning an Emotional Journey
After talking with his family, Ernie agreed to the procedure. He chokes up a bit explaining how he made the decision and says, "I had a lot to live for. I wanted to spend time with my kids and my grandkids". He also wanted the best care available while staying close to the support of his family.
At the Forefront of New Technologies
The cardiac surgery team attached an LVAD to Ernie’s heart and aorta (the large artery that carries blood to other parts of the body) to help restore proper function. And because this pump provides continuous flow, patients like Ernie live without a pulse.
“Ernie was our first Left Ventricular Assist Device patient,” says cardiac surgeon Dr. David Deaton. “Taking care of Ernie has been very gratifying because you put this device in and patients get a much better quality of life.”
“Before I went into surgery, I was scared,” Ernie says. “Dr. Deaton reassured me that I would be alright and then he shook my hand. I couldn’t have asked for a better surgeon. He’s the man.” Ernie also appreciated that Dr. Deaton and the whole team included his family and helped them understand the process and what to expect. “I was supported by Baystate staff the whole time. I mean love through the roof,” Ernie says.
Paying It Forward
Since Ernie’s surgery, others have received LVADs at Baystate Medical Center and Ernie is proud to be part of a Baystate Health support group for LVAD patients. As Baystate Health’s first LVAD recipient, he understands what they're going through. It’s not an easy road, Ernie says, but he shows everyone there is life with an LVAD and, in fact, that life can be very good.
Ernie wants to spread the message that everyone who suspects they may have a heart problem should have a doctor check it out and not let fear stop them.
We all deserve a second chance at life,” Ernie says. “I'm here and I'm grateful for everything Baystate did for me.”