An Option for Survival - Omaha, Nebraska - CHI Health

An Option for Survival

Article Date: Jan 11, 2011

If you know anything about Darlene Strayer, you know she doesn’t like to sit still. At 86, she still walks to the store, cooks her own meals and cleans her own home. But when her breathing got in the way of her living, Darlene got moving.

"I was breathing so hard – I couldn’t walk from here to the kitchen," she explains. "I went to the emergency room. They checked me in and said, ‘you’re not leaving’."

It turns out Darlene was in pretty bad shape.

"Evidently it was my heart."

Her heart was failing, her kidneys were failing and – because she received a pig valve in a previous surgery, traditional medicine was failing her. No one wanted to operate on Darlene.

Alegent Health Clinic Interventional Cardiologist Ruby Satpathy, M.D. was called in for a second opinion.

"She was turned down by a couple of surgeons," Dr. Satpathy says. "That was reasonable because the chance of her making it through surgery was low."

But in 2008, the FDA approved a new treatment for some of the riskiest cardiac patients – one that does not involve cracking open the chest. Dr. Satpathy is one of a handful of doctors in the U.S. specially trained on the Impella.

"This we put in the groin and run it up through this vessel and it goes in across the valve," she explains.

During surgery, the Impella acts as a tiny artificial heart pump. It does for patients like Darlene what their own heart can’t. The benefit is no open heart surgery.

"It’s acting as a heart instead of heart contracting and pushing blood through the valve – this little thing is sucking all the blood and working like a heart," says Dr. Satpathy.

Another device drills away at the calcium. Darlene’s heart was 80% blocked, which Dr. Satpathy says is a lot of calcium.

Once a stent or balloon is in place, the blood starts flowing again. Darlene’s surgery took one hour. It’s only the 2nd or 3rd one done in the U.S. on a patient with a pig valve.

"There are a lot of people we can help with modern technology," says Dr. Satpathy.

Without Impella and doctors like Ruby Satpathy, patients like Darlene would be out of options.

Darlene says she feels great now. She’s not only walking, she’s also back behind the wheel and starting to feel like her old self again. She says she owes it all to Dr. Satpathy.

If you would like more information on minimally invasive heart procedures, or to find a physician who is right for you, call 1-800-ALEGENT or go to

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