KCBD Investigates: UMC cardiac patient will now have to travel to Dallas for care
LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - A program that has given hope to those with weak or failing hearts will no longer be offered in Lubbock, for a second time.
UMC launched its Left Ventricular Assist Device Program (LVAD) in 2006, but said the demand has not increased as expected, so it is doing away with the program, just like it disappeared in the 1990s, after another Lubbock hospital tried it for a few years.
But this time, there are more families involved.
Samuel York said he received the device in 2019 after he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure.
“It is not a cure,” York said. “It is implanted to help you live longer.”
An LVAD is a mechanical device that helps pump blood through the body. The device is implanted below the diaphragm and attached to the left ventricle and the aorta - the main artery that carries oxygenated blood from the left ventricle into the entire body.
“You have to understand that you are going to have good days and you are going to have bad days, but overall, I am still living and that is the joy of actually having it,” York said.
York, a grandfather and a father of three said the device has given him something he did not have before - time.
“They told me if I had not gotten it I would have passed away a year after 2019,” York said.
“His family, his friends, his pastor, us, we were so relieved that he was going to get some help. UMC said, ‘Here is hope’ and we grabbed on to it,” said Teresa Stephens, York’s boss.
Stephens owns the Cast Iron Grill and said York is one of her longtime employees.
Over the last decade, Stephens said she has had to visit York in the hospital more times than she can count.
“We have had the ambulance called to this place numerous times for Sam York,” Stephens said. “I never know after all of these years, what I will find when I get in there. A lot of times it has been Sam lying on the ground not doing very well.”
Right before York was scheduled to have the LVAD surgery, he got so sick he had to be hospitalized.
“I actually stayed in the hospital for almost a month. My pastor told him he had to go back to talk to God because he had gotten really weary,” York said.
“That was a rough time to go up there and sit by his bed and no one really knowing if Sam was going to make it or not,” Stephens said.
But York, a three-time cancer survivor, is a fighter. He pulled through and had the device implanted in 2019.
York said UMC introduced him to the health system’s LVAD team, who he said has always been there when he needed them.
“If I am in the hospital, my cardiologist, she shows up; I don’t care what day it is. I have seen her come dressed on a Sunday like she’s been to church. She will have her white coat on, her purse on her arm and she is in cardiac ICU checking on her patients, making sure they are okay.”
However, York said at one of his recent appointments, he learned he would no longer have that cardiologist or any member of the LVAD team because UMC had decided to end the program.
York asked where he would need to see go, and he was told he would have to travel to Dallas.
“What about the 21 of us you put these devices in? You are just throwing us away? You are putting us 300 and something miles away from our families? I have a 16-year-old daughter at home. What if something happens to my child when I’m in the hospital in Dallas? What if something happens to me?” York said.
When Stephens heard the news, she went with York to UMC to confirm it.
“I was having a hard time wrapping my head around that he can’t see another cardiologist here, period, whatsoever. They won’t be able to take care of the LVAD, he will always go to Dallas to see his cardiologist. My husband is a heart attack survivor and his cardiologist is a pretty big deal and he is 10 minutes up the road. Sam has more issues and his cardiologist is going to be five hours away,” Stephens said.
“I feel like UMC could have done better,” York said.
Through all of his health battles, Stephens said York has never lost hope.
“I’ve never met someone who handles it with so much grace,” Stephens said.
“You have faith in God and you know God is going to be there with you, so you just have to go on,” York said.
KCBD asked UMC for an interview. The health system declined but sent us this statement, “UMC Health System has closed its LVAD program due to a diminishing volume of patients referred from the region to the program. The regulatory and accreditation requirements are stringent, as they are for any specialty program. UMC provides state-of-the-art care across many service lines and programs – this one however was not sustainable. We have made and continue to arrange for LVAD patients to be cared for in larger programs elsewhere.”
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