Eddie Gunter had been a truck driver for 32 years when a heart attack changed his life forever at age 52. He was in his truck at the time, traveling through North Carolina on an exceedingly hot summer day. When he felt the first signs, he wasn’t sure what was happening.

“I couldn’t see too well,” Eddie explains. “I thought I was having a heat stroke.”

He got on the radio and called for help moments before passing out behind the wheel.  Thankfully, two other trucks were close by. In a daring rescue, they pulled up alongside Eddie and sandwiched his vehicle between theirs, guiding him to the nearest rest stop.  When he woke up, seven hours had gone by and he was in a North Carolina hospital where he was treated before returning to his home in Lexington, SC and becoming a patient of Palmetto Health Heart Hospital.

Two years later, Eddie started experiencing progressive debilitating symptoms of heart failure and continual chest pain that was not being relieved by medication. Unable to make the trip back and forth to a transplant center in another state, but in immediate need of relief from his symptoms, Eddie consulted with Palmetto Health physicians and elected to have a Heart Mate II® left ventricular assist device (LVAD for short) implanted in him. LVADs are mechanical pumps that assist the heart’s function and blood flow. The pump receives power from a battery pack that is worn outside the body.

Eddie received the device in April 2013 and was able to go home two weeks after surgery. Right away he noticed the benefits of increased cardiac output. Within two months he was walking three miles several times a week and proudly participated in a walking event at the hospital.

The LVAD procedure not only saved Eddie’s life but allowed him to enjoy better quality of life and return to the daily activities he used to enjoy. He now plays a key role at Palmetto Health Heart Hospital, visiting with patients entering into the LVAD therapy and talking to them about his experience.

“I just want to give back a little of what everyone around here gave me,” Eddie says. “I go visit with the patients and cut up and laugh with them. I’ve even made house calls to see them.”

Eddie is currently scheduled to have a cardiac transplant at Duke University Medical Center. Soon, he won’t have any more need of the LVAD device that has enabled him to breathe easier and have more energy during his transitional period. But even after his transplant he plans to continue helping the LVAD patients of Palmetto Health Heart Hospital.

““They’re like my family here. When I walk into this hospital, I feel like I’m home.”

 

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