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St. Vincent nurse’s modified heart device helps patient gain independence

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — An Indiana heart patient has gained a bit more independence despite visual impairment. Crediting an Ascension St. Vincent nurse for a simple but effective invention. It’s an important tool to have when seconds count.

Don Burchett has the type of personality that draws you in. And coping with vision loss and heart failure hasn’t changed that one bit.

“One little thing that I could do to help out is tremendously satisfying,” he said of his role in testing the invention.

But it has changed how he moves around the world, and that’s the important part that he’s still moving.

Last year Burchett’s heart gave out. So he underwent heart surgery at Ascension St. Vincent, and was fitted with an LVAD, a left ventricular assistance device. It’s the largest center in the state to implant these devices.

Dr. Kathleen Morris at Ascension St. Vincent said, “Over the last 10 years, we have become better at managing pumps, heart pumps. Which has allowed us to be more aggressive.”

The LVAD runs off electricity and battery. As a person with vision loss, it proved hard to adjust.
Dedicated to independence, he wanted to learn on his own.

“The device will turn on and it’s like a little pump and what it does, and gets the blood to your extremities,” Burchett said.

His medical team had the same idea. Registered nurse Erika Freimanis developed a simple prototype. Freimanis was partnered with Burchett just a few days after his surgery and they developed a friendship.

“Oh my gosh do you use this on other people and I said oh no. This is literally what I found in our junk drawer trying to find something that’s going to work,” Freimanis said.

Burchett says this device is a life saver and life changer.

“Would you go through this all again. My answer Katiera is this. Very simply. In a heartbeat,” he said.

Ascension St. Vincent is in communication with a manufacturer about using this for a broader patient population.