When Jim’s advanced heart failure kept him from enjoying outdoor fun with his family, they encouraged him to get a ventricular assist device (VAD).

Your Health | 11 months ago

In Upstate S.C., a Heart Failure Patient Finds New Life with a VAD

An Atrium Health Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute clinic gives upstate Greenville-area patients access to specialized heart care, close to home.

Jim Rampey’s family keeps him on the go: riding four-wheelers, going camping, fishing for bass and catfish. Three generations of Rampeys live in upstate South Carolina, which has no shortage of outdoor fun to enjoy. But Jim, 71, had heart failure that sidelined him from enjoying activities with his family.

Jim restored his health through the implantation of a ventricular assist device (VAD). A VAD strengthens the heart’s ability to pump blood throughout the body, which often allows patients to return to the activities they love.

"Without the VAD, I wouldn't be here,” Jim says. “My family – my wife, my son, two grandkids and my daughter-in-law – influenced me to [get the VAD]. I believe a person should do everything they can, as long as they can, to preserve life."

For a long time, connecting Jim with specialized heart care would involve a two-and-a-half hour drive to Charlotte for regular appointments at Atrium Health Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute. But now, Jim can receive much of that specialized care without leaving Greenville – and sometimes, without even leaving his home.

Bringing Specialists to Heart Patients – Not the Other Way Around

Atrium Health’s heart failure clinic in Greenville, Carolinas HealthCare System Heart Failure & Transplant - Greenville, opened in 2018. Here, patients in upstate South Carolina who have advanced heart failure, as well as those who are pre- and post-heart transplant, can see local heart failure specialists. Patients maintain the relationships they have with their current doctors while receiving specialized care at the clinic. For example, Jim still sees his regular cardiologist at Upstate Cardiology in Greenville for care for his pacemaker, but the team at the Greenville clinic complements those appointments with specialized heart failure care.

The clinic supports many patients who have VADs implanted. Some patients use a VAD as a bridge therapy, which means they use it temporarily until they’re able to have a heart transplant. Other patients, like Jim, use it as a destination therapy. For patients who are unable to have a transplant – for example, patients over 70 usually aren’t candidates for a heart transplant – a VAD offers a long-term option to manage heart failure.

“Implanting a VAD can give heart failure patients a more normal cardiac output, and with that, a chance of having a better quality of life,” says Amanda Green, NP, who specializes in cardiology at the Greenville location. “Their color gets better; they have better energy. They can get back to doing what they had been doing before heart failure got in the way. Some of our patients go back to the gym or go back to school to get a degree. A VAD gives them a chance to live.”

Jim went to Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte to get the VAD surgically implanted, but almost all of his VAD check-ups are at his local Greenville clinic; both locations share an electronic record system for seamless communication. They also collaborate with his regular cardiologist, who provides care for his pacemaker. It’s a team approach with a goal to maximize patient convenience and specialized care.

Most of the Greenville clinic’s patients with VADs go to Carolinas Medical Center once a year for an annual exam; otherwise, their local specialists offer routine care that’s close to home – or even care from the comfort of home. The clinic can even handle many adjustments of the VAD for the patient right there in the office.

“Patients are surprised and relieved that they can get almost all of their specialized heart care here in Greenville. People here are so used to having to make that drive to Charlotte,” Green says. “Patients especially like our virtual visits because they don't have to get in the car to travel at all. They feel safe at home, and they're still able to see our faces.”

For patients like Jim who have a VAD, they can work with a provider over a video visit to check the settings on their device for regular check-ups. Some virtual visits even allow nurses to offer nutrition education to heart patients while they’re in their own kitchens, allowing patient and provider to review nutrition labels in the pantry together.

Between the virtual visits at home and the appointments at the local clinic in Greenville, Jim saves hours of time each month that he’d otherwise spend traveling to a doctor’s office or hospital. And that’s a good thing, especially when Jim feels this good. When the fish are biting and the weather’s good for camping, Jim has far better things to do with that time.

To learn more about Carolinas HealthCare System Heart Failure & Transplant - Greenville or to make an appointment, please call 864-675-5844.