Breakthrough for Women with Heart Disease

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Heart disease is the number one killer among women. But thanks to a medical breakthrough, tens of thousands of women waiting for a heart transplant could now have another life-saving option.

Cutting Edge Technology Saves a Life

It's hard to believe that inside Salina Gonzales is a revolutionary electric pump. It spins at 10,000 rotations a minute, pumping blood through her body.

The cutting edge device is a life saver for a woman whose heart was on the verge of shutting down more than a year ago.

"It was very difficult. I couldn't walk two steps without being severely short of breath," she said.

"She was dying from heart failure. She probably had 30 days to live," Dr. Roberta Bogaev of the Texas Heart Institute said.

Heart failure is a chronic condition that starves the heart of blood. Salina needed a transplant, while doctors needed to find a way to keep her alive, until they found a donor.

As many as 5.3 million Americans live with heart failure - and many are women.

The standard pump implanted in a man with this condition is too heavy for most women, so doctors recommended a new, experimental model for Salina, one that is one third the size and weight - about the size of a D battery.

A Speedy Recovery

The pump was placed inside her body, below her heart. The power line came out through her skin on the other side and is connected to a mini-computer and power pack. Salina says she doesn't feel anything.

"Nothing at all," she said.

"It can address so many people suffering premature death because of heart failure that nothing else can be done for," The Texas Heart Institute's Dr. Bud Frazier said.

Salina gained strength and stamina within three months. She returned to a normal life after just six months. A checkup brought more wonderful news.

"We saw by turning the pump down that her heart had recovered. And in rare cases we have seen this, that by resting the heart, the heart function can improve," Bogaev said.

The diagnosis not only put a smile on Salina's face, but her son's as well.

"I'm just so pleased. I'm so happy because I can see him growing up. I can see him graduating from college and getting married. And I know that I will be there. I just know I will," Salina said.

She no longer needs a transplant. In fact, doctors have removed the pump.

A few days after the surgery, she walked a mile around hospital corridors - to the beat of her own heart.

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Mark Martin

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