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Cardiac Doctors Find a Heart for “Bionic Bride”

Bionic brideMost brides walk down the aisle feeling their hearts beat wildly as they take in their long-awaited ceremony. For Ally Smith Babineaux, however, a racing heart was not a concern on her wedding day. In fact, her heart beat was completely steady thanks to the mechanical heart pump regulating her most vital organ.

When viral cardiomyopathy destroyed her heart in 2006, Ally was equipped with a HeartMate II, a system of pumps and wires installed by cardiac doctors in the body which attaches to a battery back just outside the abdomen. Dubbed the “Bionic Bride,” Ally was able to return to mostly normal function after receiving the device, which allowed her to see her wedding plans through to the big day.

The left ventricular assist device, or LVAD, is a device gaining in popularity in the medical field for its ability to sustain patients with heart damage while they wait for a transplant. Cardiologists have said that up to 20% of patients waiting for heart transplants in the United States receive an LVAD to increase their success rates and quality of life.

The hope was that Ally’s heart would be able to heal and mend itself with the assistance of the LVAD. Just a few months after the wedding, however, Ally’s heart continued to deteriorate to the point that the HeartMate could no longer work. In February of 2011, her overall condition worsened until Ally slipped into a coma and doctors knew she only had a few hours left.

Waiting for a heart transplant can be a harrowing experience for patients, with nearly 3,200 people on the national waiting list. Median wait times for a donor heart range from two to eight months depending on the age and condition of a patient, with some people waiting years before a match is found.

In what her family members have described as a “miracle,” Ally’s condition somehow improved that night just as a donor heart became available. Her recovery allowed cardiac doctors to go ahead with the transplant procedure and give Ally her own beating heart.

Five years after first being diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy, Ally is now almost fully recovered, able to work a full-time job and enjoy her married life.

Watch Ally’s recent interview with the Today Show here:

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