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Gail Johnson

Heart failure patient gets second chanceGail Johnson

Gail Johnson, age 75, from Starbuck lived with heart problems for 30 years, and then in 2010 her health declined drastically.

“I had lost weight, was short of breath and in a lot of pain,” she said. “I could barely move from my chair to my bed.”

Gail was rushed by ambulance to the University of Minnesota, where doctors inserted a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), which helps the heart pump blood to the body.

“I would not be here today without the LVAD,” she said. “Because I was over 70, I did not qualify to be a heart transplant patient.” Gail was discharged one week after her surgery and transferred to a rehab facility for a week of recovery.

Cardiologist Jamie Pelzel, MD, from CentraCare Heart & Vascular Center in St. Cloud, previously had talked to Gail about LVAD surgery and told her about the “Shared Care” program the Heart & Vascular Center participates in with the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic.

Patient Stories

Read other stories of patient's courage and their care at CentraCare Heart & Vascular Center at St. Cloud Hospital.

CentraCare has Busiest ‘Shared Care’ Program in Midwest

“CentraCare has the busiest ‘Shared Care’ program in the Midwest,” Dr. Pelzel said. “Patients with an LVAD need to be observed closely, which means frequent visits to the cardiology clinic. The ‘Shared Care’ program allows these patients to get their follow-up care close to home. We have the equipment and expertise necessary to make sure the LVAD is working properly and that patients are thriving.”

Today, Gail is able to do just about everything she wants such as entertaining, golfing, playing bridge, traveling and spending time with her grandchildren. “The only thing I can’t do is water activities,” she said. “Living on Lake Minnewaska, that can sometimes be a challenge, but I am just happy to be alive.”