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When Ted Bayard's grandchildren call him "Superman," it's no understatement. In fact, even the Man of Steel may have found it difficult to overcome Bayard's many health challenges.
In February 2015, Bayard was flown by medical jet to the University of Chicago Medicine from Peoria, Illinois. A week earlier, the 60-year-old security guard had had a heart attack at work. During coronary artery bypass graft surgery to restore blood flow to his heart, he developed life-threatening cardiogenic shock and needed more advanced treatment than his local doctors could provide.
"Ted had only 10 percent of normal heart function," said his wife, Cheryl Bayard.
The trip to Chicago was harrowing. Ted's condition was critical and time was of the essence. He needed to be flown, with specialized medical personnel on board.
"We couldn't get out of Peoria because of fog that morning," Cheryl said. Visibility was so poor that the hospital's medical helicopters couldn't safely fly. So arrangements were made for a medical jet that could fly above the fog. After Ted was on his way, the airline company provided a car and driver for Cheryl to get to Chicago.
Ted needed a more powerful, durable heart pump than was available in Peoria, said Nir Uriel, MD, director of the heart failure program at University of Chicago Medicine. "And we knew he would probably need to use it for quite a while," Uriel said.
Heart disease had been a near constant battle in Ted's life, Cheryl explained. "His father died of a massive heart attack when Ted was 18," she said. "His brother has had several heart attacks." When Ted was 42 he had a stent implanted to open a coronary artery and keep blood flowing properly. He received another stent just a few years later.
In 2003, Ted continued to struggle with heart disease and had a cardiac pacemaker implanted. Three years later, he had a mild heart attack and received another stent. In 2011, Ted was hospitalized to pass a kidney stone that required a stent placed in the urinary tract to help it along. His doctors explained that having a stent could increase the risk of developing an infection.
Two weeks later, Ted acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterium that's very difficult to treat because it's resistant to many antibiotics. While he was hospitalized for the infection, Ted had another heart attack.
"After that, he never came back 100 percent," Cheryl said. "We felt like we were living with a ticking time bomb."
Once Ted arrived at the University of Chicago Medicine, Uriel and the cardiac care team determined that the CentriMag BiVAD heart pump was the best option for him. Because Ted's heart was so weak, he needed a device that would help both ventricles pump blood. "The severity of his illness was extreme," Uriel said.
A biventricular assist device uses two pumps -- one that channels blood from the right ventricle to the pulmonary artery to pick up oxygen in the lungs and another that directs blood from the left ventricle to the aorta, which sends blood to the rest of the body. The pumps are connected to tubes that exit the body through the abdomen and attach to an external controller. Together, they can pump about 10 liters of blood per minute, about twice the amount of a healthy heart.
The pumps restored Ted's blood circulation, but kidney failure set in from the stress his body had been through. "We had to look at all the other organs to see if any damage was reversible," Uriel explained. After careful examination, the medical team determined that improved blood flow from the transplant could restore normal kidney function.
Evaluating patients for a heart transplant also involves a psychosocial assessment. Emotional resilience is an important component of recovery. The Bayards have a strong marriage, and Cheryl was at Ted's side every day.
"We knew this couple has what it takes," Uriel said.
Ted was in the clear for the transplant and, because patients with biventricular pumps are considered to be in the greatest need, he was moved to the top of the list to receive a new heart. He started working with physical therapists to build his strength in preparation for surgery. It wasn't easy -- he was still tethered to the bulky CentriMag BiVAD controller.
"He was depressed; he didn't want to get out of bed," Cheryl said. His therapists encouraged him and motivated Ted to get moving. "He started to look forward to it when they came to help him get out of bed," Cheryl said. Soon, he was able to sit in a chair. "It's a very hard process," Cheryl added.
The effort paid big dividends when Ted was able to walk the hallways with the controller in tow. "All the doctors stopped and applauded because it was such a big thing," Cheryl said. Ted's doctors took videos of him and sent them to his physicians in Peoria.
Even when circumstances were dire, Cheryl could count on support from Ted's care team. "Everyone was so compassionate," she said.
After more than two months in the hospital with the biventricular pump helping to circulate his blood, a donor heart became available, and Ted had transplant surgery in early April 2015. Soon after, Ted started cardiac rehabilitation, and on June 2 -- his birthday -- Ted got the well-deserved gift of going home.
"I'm so grateful he's here," Cheryl said.
Ted continued rehab in Peoria throughout that summer. By fall, he said, "I'm feeling great." In his work as a security guard for a large parking facility, Ted said he walked anywhere from four to 10 miles a day. Despite his history of heart disease, that level of exertion kept him physically strong.
"The doctors told me that's what helped me get through this," he said.
Now his goals are to keep moving—getting outdoors most days and walking or going for a drive. "It's important to stay physically active," he said.
Ted and Cheryl also enjoy restoring furniture. He has to wear a specialized dusk mask but that's a small inconvenience compared with Ted's medical journey.
"It's something we can live with," Cheryl said.
Nir Uriel, MD, is a leader in the field of heart failure, mechanical circulatory support and heart transplantation. He specializes in caring for patients who require mechanical circulatory support, including ventricular assist devices (VADs).Read more about Dr. Uriel
At the University of Chicago Medicine, we bring the best minds in medicine together to meet the needs of patients facing heart failure.Read more about our heart failure expertise