Dr. Dan Garcia Boasts a Six Pack: Just One Large Pack with 6 Batteries!

By Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N.

Last week, I was privileged to go to the Circle of Red and Red Tie Society recruitment reception (see What is the Circle of Red & Red Tie Society).  I used to be a member when I published Kentuckiana HealthFitness Magazine and Kentuckiana Healthy Woman Magazine. But when I got the invitation to the reception, I went primarily because one of my favorite people in the world was speaking, Dan Garcia, M.D. about his Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) that is keeping him alive.

Dr. Garcia was my three sons’ pediatrician. I worked for Dr. Garcia in the early 1990’s as a nutrition consultant for his practice until he decided to do a fellowship in pediatric allergy. Dan had his first heart attack when he was 38 years old and a number of heart attacks since then. Everyone loved Dr. Garcia and therefore he had a big very successful practice. But the long hours took its toll on Dr. Garcia’s health.

Dr. Garcia was very entertaining. He said he had a “six pack” but it is just one big pack. He said his wife, Rita, calls him the Bionic Man. Dr. Garcia said his heart was so weak he was having a difficult time working even though he loved medicine. He said he could barely work part of the day and he would go home exhausted. He said they had to sell their house to get a ranch house since he was unable to climb stairs. He could barely walk out to the car or get the mail without out being winded. After the implantation of the VAD, he walks 2 -3 miles a day and has a renewed passion for life. It’s not a new heart but it feels like a new heart because of the joy for life he has experienced since the surgery.  Dr. Garcia proudly introduced his surgeon, Mark Slaughter, M.D.


The Scoop on Mark Slaughter, MD

Dr. Slaughter is a world-renowned expert in heart transplantation, ventricular assist devices and the surgical management of heart failure.  Dr. Slaughter received his BS from civil engineering at Purdue University and his MD degrees from Indiana University.   Dr. Slaughter completed his residency in general surgery at Northwestern University and his fellowship in cardiovascular and thoracic surgery at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Slaughter has a unique appointment at Jewish Hospital and University of Louisville as Director of the Division of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery.   Dr. Slaughter has participated in more than 35 clinical trials focused on innovations in cardiac surgery, vascular assist devices, treatments for congestive heart failure and related areas. Dr. Slaughter has given more than 65 invited lectures, published more than 50 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters and presented more than 85 papers and abstracts at national and international conferences.  We should applaud both Jewish Hospital and the University of Louisville for recruiting an outstanding physician like Dr. Slaughter to Louisville.   


Dr. Slaughter Shares His Thought about Women’s Heart Disease

Dr. Slaughter shared that his 58 year old brother recently died of heart attack while he was out jogging. He discussed the fact that heart disease is the #1 killer for both men and women. He said that 70% of men have heart surgery but not many women and as a result more women die of heart failure than men. In fact, Dr. Slaughter reported in the past the VAD were so big and cumbersome that they were too large for women or children. The VAD that Dr. Garcia’s is using is much smaller. The first generation of VAD batteries were actually powered by plutonium according to Dr. Slaughter, but for National Security sake, the VAD batteries had to be re-designed.  Dr. Garcia and Dr. Slaughter talked the specifics about the VAD using an illustrative VAD.  When asked about if his activity was limited, Dr. Garcia informed the audience that he cannot swim or get into a hot tub but can do most everything else.


What’s on the Horizon

Dr. Slaughter discussed the cardiac adult stem cell project at U of L/Jewish Hospital.  Last March, Dr. Slaughter performed a coronary artery bypass  where he removed cardiac stem cells (also called harvested) from a portion of the upper chamber of Michael Jones, a 66-year old man who suffered from heart failure. In conjunction with Dr. Roberto Bolli, Director of the Institute of Molecular Cardiology and Chief of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine in the Department of Medicine, the tissue was frozen.  The frozen cells were sent to collaboration team under the direction of Dr. Piero Anversa at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. In Boston, the stem cells were isolated and expanded. Four months after the initial surgery, the cells are then infused into the patient’s scarred cardiac tissue by way of catheterizing a large artery in the patient’s leg. Using the patient’s own cardiac stem cells eliminates the possibility of rejection. In fact, Dr. Bolli has reported in a small group of his patients that these stem cell therapies were able to reverse heart damage without dangerous side effects. Jones was measured less than 25% of the amount of blood pumped out of the left ventricle with each heartbeat compared to 50% or more for healthy people.  After the surgery, Jones measurement has increased to about 30%. Dr. Slaughter is hopeful that these stem cells could regenerate heart muscle cells.


In addition, Dr. Slaughter talked about the concept of myocardial recovery at the reception. He said “if you can let the heart rest and give heart muscle cells time to regenerate by using a VAD this may revolutionize heart transplants of the future. We are one of three programs in the country that has received $4 million to work on stem cells and devices for this myocardial recovery.”


What is the Circle of Red & Red Tie Society?

Micheal Crouch of Bourbons Bistro (Complimentary Hors d’Oeuvres from Bourbons Bistro) and Doris McGuire (and husband Steve) had the reception at their beautiful home). Doris is a member of the Circle of Red & Red Tie Society.       

The Circle of Red and Red Tie Society is a group of men and women who have a passion, motivation and inspiration to influence changes in their community and across the country regarding women’s heart health.  Circle of Red and Red Tie Society help support the mission of Go Red for Women® by making a personal financial commitment of $1500 or more as an annual gift to the movement, while serving as ambassadors for the American Heart Association. Some of the social perks that come along with the donation are: invitation to the Go Red VIP Event to judge the Red Dress Centerpieces, Go Red for Women Luncheon backstage invitation to Meet and Greet the Keynote Speaker with VIP seating and special recognition, summer/fall cookout social for member and guest, photo shoot for Today’s Woman magazine and a recognition plaque at the American Heart Association office and opportunities to network with other who are passionate about preventing and treating heart disease. For more information about the Circle of Red and Red Tie Society you can contact Jane Merman at (502) 371-6014 or email her at jane.merman@heart.org.

Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N., is a registered dietitian with a Master’s Degree in clinical nutrition.  The former publisher of Kentuckiana HealthFitness Magazine, Kentuckiana Healthy Woman magazine and radio show host of Health News You Can Use, Barbara has over 30 years of experience in promoting healthy lifestyles to consumers.  Barbara worked as Nutrition Consultant to the Navy SEALs (8 years) and the University of Louisville Athletic Department (10 years). Barbara has private practice, DayByDay Nutrition, www.DayByDayNutrition.com, where she counsels clients on weight loss, cholesterol management, performance nutrition and an array of other medical issues.  Visit Barbara’s new website which is an on-line health & wellness magazine, www.KentuckianaHealthWellness.com. Barbara writes nutrition and health columns for www.LiveStrong.com as well as a weekly nutrition column for the Southeast Outlook. She also designs and presents employee wellness programs to small and large businesses. Barbara is a runner, cyclist, hiker and a mother and grandmother to 12 grandchildren.    


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