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Home Is Where His Heart Is

April 10, 2012, 6:06 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

Home Is Where His Heart Is

Most hospital patients don't bring their dogs into their rooms, but Jan Larsen is trying to make it feel like a home-away-from-home. After all, the Sioux Falls man has been staying at Sanford since December 30.

"When they put me in and admitted me, they told me it could be anywhere from six months to a year," Larsen said.

Doctors diagnosed Larsen with congestive heart failure and cardiomyopathy in 2009. Now at 51-years-old, his heart is shot. He's staying alive until he can get a heart transplant through a so-called mechanical heart. A left ventricular assist device or LVAD helps the heart pump blood throughout the body.

"They have it put in, and all of a sudden they can catch their breath again, and they just can do more stuff," Sanford Cardiologist Dr. Orvar Jonsson said.

Doctor Orvar Jonsson is able to read LVADs at Sanford. Just a little more than a year ago, patients had to travel to Minneapolis or Rochester every few months.

"We're basically the third program in the whole country that started doing this without being an implant center or transplant center," Jonsson said.

While Larsen is trying to make the most of the experience, he says he's anxious to get out of the hospital. Because of his experience, he encourages others to become donors.

"Then, to be sure and share that with their family and loved ones, so they know that's really what they want to do," Larsen said.

But as he waits for a heart, he's glad his wife can be by his side. She works on the same floor where Jan is a patient.

"I can have my dog who's my good buddy come visit me, and obviously, it's easier for my wife and daughter to come and visit me because they don't have to drive 3.5 hours to come see me," Larsen said.

And when they aren't by his side, Larsen has pictures of his children and grandchild up to remind him what he has to live for.

Doctor Jonsson says patients can live for years with a LVAD. Some patients are doing very well on them after more than ten years.

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