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Heart-Saving Technology Gives Twins a New Lease on Life

November 15, 2019

At age 24, twins Edward and Edwin Roman of Summit, NJ, were diagnosed with a debilitating heart condition that had them both struggling with life. “I was exhausted walking up a flight of steps and could barely walk a block,” says Edwin. Edward, who led a very active life, noticed his ankles were swollen and that he could no longer ride his bike.

The twins credit the medical experts at the Heart Success Program of Morristown Medical Center with their life-changing road back to recovery. Edward and Edwin were suffering from hereditary dilated cardiomyopathy, a genetic condition that causes the heart to become enlarged, reducing its ability to pump blood throughout the body. Because of the progression of the disease, there were few options for treatment.

“They were exceptionally ill. Both had end-stage heart failure,” says cardiologist Marc Goldschmidt, MD, medical director of the Heart Success Program. “They were failing on oral medication and without advanced therapies, their one-year survival rate was approaching 50%.”

According to cardiologist Michael Weinrauch, MD, section chief of Cardiovascular Medicine at Overlook Medical Center, “When standard medication fails, you have to do something more aggressive, like a heart transplant.”

Unfortunately, the average wait time for a suitable heart donor for a transplant can be up to nine months, so doctors rely on technology called a left ventricular assist device (LVAD). The LVAD is surgically implanted below the heart, and it works by taking over the function of the main pumping chamber of the heart by pumping blood continuously from the left ventricle to the aorta.

“Everything is inside the patient except a ‘driveline’ that exits underneath the left ribs,” says surgeon James P. Slater, MD, surgical director of the Heart Success Mechanical Support Program. “The driveline connects to a controller that tells us what the device is doing. The controller, in turn, hooks up to a power source, either from batteries or from an electrical outlet.”

Edward underwent the lifesaving operation in December of 2018, followed by Edwin in February of 2019.

According to Linda Suplicki, APN, ventricular assist device coordinator, “the goal of this technology is to return patients to a quality of life that meets their needs. The goal for both of them is to give them as many years as possible with the LVAD before moving on to a transplant.”

Both twins have returned to work and say they have returned to a normal life.

“This is a huge team sport,” says Dr. Slater. “This required Dr. Weinrauch to recognize the situation and get them over to Heart Success, for Heart Success to do the right thing medically to have them best prepared for surgery, for me to do the surgery, and then back to the VAD team at Heart Success to provide ongoing care and support.” 

Dr. Goldschmidt and Dr. Weinrauch are part of Atlantic Medical Group, a multispecialty network of health care providers. Dr. Goldschmidt can be reached at 973-971-4179. Dr. Weinrauch can be reached at 973-467-0005.
For more information on the Heart Success Program, call 973-971-4179.