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    La Vonne - A lucky one, after all

    La Vonne -
    La Vonne - A lucky one, after all

    A former employer dubbed La Vonne “lucky one” in Chinese after she helped turn around his struggling business. But there have been times La Vonne wondered if the name fit.

    The trouble started when La Vonne began feeling chronically exhausted. Her primary care doctor at the time diagnosed the cause as sleep apnea and referred her to a sleep clinic. She didn’t make it to the clinic before her first heart attack. After her third heart attack, she underwent open heart surgery so that doctors could bypass two clogged arteries and implant a biventricular pacemaker and defibrillator combination. The two clogged arteries turned out to be six, but that part of the surgery went fine.

    The pacemaker was a different story.  Something didn’t seem right, but when La Vonne complained to her cardiologist, he told her she’d have to live with it because replacing the system was too involved. So she lived with that pacemaker until the manufacturer recalled it. Unfortunately, the replacement pacemaker system was also recalled.

    La Vonne switched to Sutter after pacemaker number three. Though the change and the quality of care she receives have nothing to do with luck, La Vonne feels fortunate. “I’m tickled pink,” she says. “Sutter is doing an outstanding job. I can’t say enough good things about everyone there.”

    The feeling is mutual. La Vonne’s doctors and staff thoroughly enjoy caring for the feisty 67-year old and finding ways to help her manage the complex mix of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. 

    Beyond receiving personalized care, La Vonne is enrolled in a home monitoring program that collects her vital signs and information from her pacemaker. The system sends the data to a secure website that the Sutter team monitors.

    Last December, when the system notified the team that the biventricular pacemaker wasn’t working correctly, La Vonne was scheduled to see Subramaniam Krishnan, M.D., a Sutter cardiologist that specializes in electrophysiology.  Dr. Krishnan did a few tests and discovered that one of the leads on La Vonne’s defibrillator that paces the left ventricle had failed.  After further investigation he also determined that the vein on the left side of La Vonne’s body was completely occluded, closing off access to replace the faulty lead.

    This discovery left Dr. Krishnan with a difficult puzzle to figure out.  “It is not uncommon for leads to fail,” Dr. Krishnan said.  “But removing the faulty wire was out of the question because it could damage the other leads and put La Vonne at risk.  I had no access on left side because of the occluded vein, so I had to map a path to her heart through a vein in her right shoulder. In a patient with La Vonne’s conditions, a normally functioning left ventricular pacing wire is crucial to providing cardiac resynchronization (CR) therapy.  CR therapy in patients such as La Vonne has been shown to improve symptoms, prevent heart failure and prolong life.”

    The type of entry Dr. Krishnan described was both innovative and necessary to repairing the damaged biventricular pacemaker.  Thanks to Dr. Krishnan’s creative approach, La Vonne was able to have the safest treatment possible, increasing her odds to have an excellent outcome.  After the procedure La Vonne began feeling better and was back to her lively self.

    Though she’s still feeling good, La Vonne volunteered to participate in a clinical trial she heard about from her regular cardiologist, Zi-Jian Xu M.D. The trial is investigating whether a drug currently used to treat two rare conditions might prove effective in preventing heart attacks, stroke and other conditions related to the vascular system.

    Being a research volunteer adds another layer of monitoring and care that La Vonne appreciates, but she has no idea if she’s receiving the drug or a placebo. It doesn’t matter, either. As she sees it, “If it helps me, that’s great. If it helps someone else, now or in the future, that’s just as good.”

    If La Vonne has her way, there will be a lot more lucky ones in this world.


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