Celebrating 10 Years With a Life-Changing Heart Pump
Former Vanguard executive Vince McCormack had a straightforward message for the dozens of people gathered to celebrate his medical milestone on Thursday, May 5, 2021.
“Without this team, I probably wouldn’t be around today,” said McCormack, 83 – one of a small number of heart patients to survive 10 years on a left ventricular assist device (LVAD).
“I’ve had my ups and downs but I’m still around. I can’t thank you enough,” he said to the medical practitioners assembled outside Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia in a ceremony marking the occasion.
It was a festive moment, with balloons, cupcakes, fruit and other snacks, attended by McCormack, his wife, Marie, and daughter, Missy, and organized by Timothy Robbins, coordinator of Einstein’s VAD program, and Shoshana Rosenfinger, associate director of the Department of Heart and Vascular Health.
Robbins turned the moment into a “pinning ceremony,” attaching a pin that said “10 years” to McCormack’s lapel.
An LVAD is a partial artificial heart that attaches to the patient’s weakened heart and helps it pump. The device originally was considered a bridge to a heart transplant, but eventually became a “destination therapy” for patients like McCormack who aren’t eligible for a transplant because of age or other circumstances.
Life expectation for LVAD patients is five to seven years. McCormack is among fewer than 150 patients in the country who have survived 10 years or more.
Einstein’s LVAD program has had “remarkable results” and is “among the best in the nation,” said Louis Samuels, MD, Einstein’s Director of Cardiac Surgery, who addressed the gathering. Dr. Samuels implanted the LVAD in McCormack when Dr. Samuels was at Lankenau Medical Center.
Indeed, it’s not an exaggeration to say that Dr. Samuels helped save McCormack’s life twice. First when he implanted the device on April 15, 2011, after McCormack had already undergone two open-heart surgeries for coronary artery and valvular heart disease and few, if any, other options were available. And many years later, in September 2020, when Dr. Samuels arranged for McCormack to be admitted to MossRehab after being treated at Jefferson Hospital for a nearly fatal hemorrhagic stroke – bleeding from a ruptured blood vessel in his brain.
“That could have been it for Vince, but he’s a fighter and survivor,” Dr. Samuels said.
“All of you did a remarkable job to bring back Vince to his charming self,” he said, addressing the MossRehab team in attendance, including Elie Elovic, MD, a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician who coordinated McCormack’s care.
McCormack is an outgoing, avuncular man who jokes easily. He’s a former Director of Operations at the investment giant Vanguard.
Dr. Samuels has kept in touch with McCormack over the years, as has nurse practitioner Elena Casanova, then coordinator of Lankenau’s VAD program, who attended the ceremony.
“This is one of the special features of LVAD programs and their patients—bonds are literally formed for a lifetime,” Dr. Samuels said. “Elena in particular is on Vince’s cellphone speed dial list.”
Dr. Samuels noted that Jefferson, Lankenau and Einstein coordinated efforts to treat McCormack and said it is “refreshing that despite the competitive healthcare environment, there is a praise-worthy collaboration between programs.”
Einstein CEO Ken Levitan also attended the ceremony along with Dr. Samuels’ colleagues in cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery at Einstein.
As for McCormack, he said, simply, “I feel very good.”