One for the record books: WVU Medicine performs life-saving heart procedure

MORGANTOWN, W.Va (WDTV) - A cardiovascular surgical procedure at the WVU Heart and Vascular Institute is the first one to be performed in West Virginia.

A 62-year-old man from Maryland received a permanent heart pump, also known as a left ventricular assist device. Not only was this operation performed for the first time in the state, but it could very well save this man's life.

Ken Ritchey's history included a major heart attack in 2002 and underwent an urgent triple bypass operation. Twelve years later, he needed stents and then in 2016, a special pacemaker.

"Each day I'm walking, I can walk a little further," said Ritchey. "Like I said before, it's hard to do stuff when you can't breathe."

That's when he came to the WVU Heart and Vascular Institute because doctors say his heart was only working at a quarter of normal function.

"Typically when they get to the stage that Mr. Ritchey was in, they're in and out of the hospital seems like every other week," said Dr. George Sokos, Medical Director of the WVU Heart and Vascular Institute.

The heart pump, also known as a left ventricular assist device, or LVAD, becomes necessary when the heart is too weak to pump blood throughout the body. It's especially necessary when other procedures aren't as effective.

"When our therapies hit a wall, there's very little we can do for patients, in particular those who have heart failure," said Dr. Vinay Badhwar, Executive Chair of the WVU Heart and Vascular Institute. "When we saw this gentleman there was really no other option to help him."

Procedures such as this one are setting the stage for the growth of cardiovascular care throughout our state.

"Up until today, all of the patients like Mr. Ritchey and there are many, have had to leave the state for care," Badhwar said. "But that's no longer required."

Ritchey continues to recover, and being able to breathe easier should help him get back to doing the things he loves.

"Hopefully I can improve my quality of life and be more active in the community and at home," Ritchey said. "I know my wife hopes I'm able to cut grass this summer because she had it last year."

About 6.5 million American adults are living with heart failure and according to the American Heart Association, it's expected to increase by 46 percent in the next 11 years.