Space Shuttle Technology a Real Lifesaver

The Space Shuttle Atlantis touched down Thursday morning at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida just a few hours before 77 year old Jim Myers checked out of his room at The Heart Hospital Baylor-Plano.

For Jim the timing was hard to miss--in 1981 he was a healthy 40-something man--today he left the hospital with a left ventricular assist device attached to his heart.

NASA engineers helped develop the LVAD by using technology from rocket engine turbo pumps used on the space shuttle.

Even back then he just knew something good was going to come from the shuttle program.

"I figured it would benefit someone," Jim recalled. "Maybe not me, but someone would get some benefit from doing all that technology."

The LVAD works by pulling blood through the pump and all the way up to aorta.

The battery powered device pumps a constant flow of blood at 8,000 rpm.

At night Jim plugs into the wall to recharge.

The LVAD used to be used as a bridge to transplant--but the Food and Drug Administration recently approved it for people like Jim who aren't transplant candidates.

Dr. Robert Smith is the surgical director of the heart failure clinic at The Heart Hospital Baylor-Plano.With the LVAD its goodbye blood pressure and hello go-with-the-flow.

"Instead it's a continuous flowing," Dr, Smith said. "Often times patients like this don't even have blood pressure as you and I know it where you get a high and low, but it's just a continuous flow of pressure."

Jim said that without the shuttle inspired LVAD his days were numbered.

"It's something that you know I had to do, I had to try," Jim said. "I wanted to live two, three, five more years."The device could last up to 20 years.

Jim's wife Carol can't believe the timing--Jim and the shuttle returning home on the same day.

"I think he is ready to go now," Carol said. "I think its God's way of bringing everything together."

Like the shuttle program Jim has aged gracefully--but unlike the shuttle program he has a new lease on life and can now make plans for the future.

"I've got a tee time on April 27th at 8 a.m."

A space-age invention with down to earth applications.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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