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Heart Failure Patient Given Second Wind in Order to Play Sax

Posted by on Jun 21, 2016 in Cardiac Services, Sutter Health Sacramento Sierra Region, Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento | 0 comments

SACRAMENTO — Jazz, blues and gospel keyboardist David Ussery, 64, always wanted to play the saxophone. So for Father’s Day 2015, his wife bought him one. He excitedly tried to play it.

“It brought me to tears,” Ussery says, “because I didn’t have the energy to blow into it.”

The longtime keyboardist who has played for R&B star Rick James and Sacramento blues legends Johnny Heartsman and Robert Nakashima was in heart failure. Not only couldn’t he play the sax, but he struggled to play the piano and had trouble walking from the living room up the stairs to the couple’s master bedroom. He even ran out of breath tying his shoes.

“I couldn’t breathe,” he says. “Life was sucky.”

Father’s Day 2016, however, was a different story. Ussery practiced his newfound talent on the saxophone in preparation for a very special concert he performed Monday, June 20. As a thank-you, he played for the people who saved his life — the clinicians of the Sutter Transplant and Advanced Heart Therapy Services.

In December 2016, Ussery was outfitted with a left ventricular assist device that keeps his heart beating blood to his lungs and other organs. Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento, the only heart transplant center in Northern California outside of the Bay Area, also pioneered a Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) Program that offers revolutionary heart pumps that prolong the lives of those in heart failure. The kind implanted in Ussery allows him to go about his daily activities without being consigned to his bed. And now Ussery’s health has improved enough that he will soon be placed atop the heart transplant list.

“Before the VAD, I picked up that sax, and what came out of it I wouldn’t want to mention. I even had to pack my piano away because the music wouldn’t come out the way I wanted,” Ussery said. “But in January this year, a month after getting the VAD, I picked up the sax and haven’t set it down since. People don’t believe me when I tell them I’ve only been playing the sax for a few months. That’s what the Sutter VAD team has allowed me to do.”

He continues, “As my wife appropriately says, I was given a second wind.”

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Posted by on Jun 21, 2016 in Cardiac Services, Sutter Health Sacramento Sierra Region, Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento | 0 comments