Her husband collapsed right before her eyes. It was his second heart attack.

Luckily, Mr Mohd Salim Abdul Rashid happened to be in one of the best places to have one- the National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS)

He was there for follow-up outpatient treatment.

At 9.20am on 5 Aug, he was waiting to have an echocardiogram when he fell backwards.

Said his wife Madam Sarah Abdul Rashid,40, a housewife: “There were two technicians in the room who caught him when he fell. The doctors came running to see him. He was given CPR.”

She waited while they worked on him.

“Later they told me that his heart had stopped for over an hour,” said Madam Sarah.

She cried and begged doctors to save her husband.

Today, Mr Salim, 48, an odd job labourer, is alive and well enough to be discharged from hospital soon.

He has been operated on and fitted with a new generation device which helps his heart to pump blood around his body. (See graphics, top.)

This device- known as Heart Mate II- has a much smaller pump, which allows it to be planted inside the patient’s body regardless of the patient’s chest cavity size.

It is suitable for adults of smaller build, for example, Asians and women.

Despite his good fortune at being in the right place, Mr Salim’s road to recovery has been eventful. 

On 5 Aug, doctors attached him to an Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machine, a technique which uses a machine to give the blood oxygen outside of the body.

Said Dr Lim Chong Hee, senior consultant and director of the heart and lung transplant programme at NHCS: “He had no sign of life. He was put on ECMO. After that we operated on him to remove the blood clot which caused his heart attack.”

After nine days, the condition of his heart was still very bad.

“That’s when we decided to operate on him to implant the Heart Mate II device,” said Dr Lim.

That was on 14 Aug. The open heart sugery took about 4 ½ hours.

Mr Salim is now out of intensive care and is able to stand up and walk around.

First Attack

Said Mr Salim: “I had my first heart attack in 2007. Doctors cleared up three blockages in my arteries. I was asked to go back for a check up every three months.”

“But in August, when I was back for a check up I was feeling very unwell. I had chest pains and felt very tired."

Soon after, he blacked out.

“I have no memory of what happened. Only that I woke up and I had this tube coming out of my body. But I am very glad to be alive,” he said.

He is among four patients in Singapore who have been implanted with the Heart Mate II device since May.

The device is built to last, which means it can potentially be used for chronic long term support of patients with irreversible heart failure, said Dr C Sivathasan, senior consultant and director of the Mechanical Heart Devices (MHD) programme.

Said Dr Lim: “This is a possible replacement for heart transplants.”

Tests have indicated that the device can last in the body for as long as 10 years.

Some 5,000 people are admitted to hospital every year with heart failure in Singapore.

An average of 30 cases are referred to NHCS with end-stage heart failure every year. About six of these patients will need device support and/or heart transplant.

The cost of being implanted with a Heart Mate II device is about $160,000.

Experts including engineers, scientists and clinicians gather yearly to share the latest developments in mechanical heart devices under the umbrella of the International Society for Rotary Blood Pumps.

This year’s conference, the 17th, will be held here, with the NHCS hosting it for the first time.

Dr Sivathasan, who is the president of the three-day gathering, which starts today, said: “Being able to host the conference here means that our skills and expertise in MHD are maturing and this is recoginsed internationally.”        

Source: The New Paper© Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission required for reproduction.