(02/17/12) - They call it LifeVest, and technically it looks just like one, but this is not like any life vest you've probably seen. This is a wearable defibrillator. We have seen portable defibrillators, even the surgically implanted kind. Now, there is another option: LifeVest.
This vest is designed for patients at risk for sudden cardiac arrest. They do not have to have surgery to use it. They also do not have to worry about whether a defibrillator or a bystander who knows how to use one are available.
So far, 50,000 patients are currently prescribed the device. Sixty-three-year-old Charlotte Clark of Flushing is one of them. She says it saved her life. "My daughter thinks about it now and cries, she says 'mama, you were dead, you were dead and that thing brought you back.'"
That "thing" is called LifeVest. It continuously monitors the heart and, if a life-threatening heart rhythm is picked up, the vest sends a shock to get the heart beating in time again.
Charlotte was not impressed, and did not want to wear her's, at first. "The day that the young lady came to fit me and I saw it, I was overwhelmed. I cried, 'what am I going to have to wear this the rest of my life, or what?'"
Charlotte actually quit wearing the Vest, until she says, she had a dream, a fateful one. "I had a dream, that my daughter came to me and said "mom, I think you better put your vest back on because you are not looking to comfortable right now,' so I put my vest back on."
Hours later, she awoke again, but this time it wasn't a dream. "The sheriff was there, the ambulance, paramedics were there."
Charlotte's heart had stopped. Her LifeVest saved her, exactly as her cardiologist, Dr. Syed Ahmed at Hurley, told her it would when he originally prescribed it.
Dr. Ahmed is excited to have the vest as a resource. "We will see the use of LifeVest extensively in the next five years because we are identifying a lot of patients who will need the external defibrillators down the road."
Charlotte is just grateful she was wearing hers when crisis struck. "I had never heard of it, and I really didn't have faith that it was going to do me any good, but it saved my life!"
If patients are candidates for implanted defibrillators, they may wear LifeVest first. It is an option for patients who may be too sick to do anything else. It is used for heart attack, before or after bypass surgery or stent placement, as well as for people with cardiomyopathy or congestive heart failure.
For more information about LifeVest, visit http://lifevest.zoll.com
ABC12 Main Station