• By Dana Sparks

Sharing Mayo Clinic: New optimism with left ventricular assist device

May 19, 2019

The first signals that Ron Schneider's heart was beginning to fail him came in the late 1980s when Ron — who was then just in his 40s — began experiencing shortness of breath, increased fatigue and weakness, and a decreased ability to do the things he loved around his home and business.

"My local doctor in Nebraska at the time knew I had a problem, but he couldn't put his finger on it," Ron says.

Even though X-rays showed his heart was growing in size and decreasing in function, an echocardiogram didn't reveal an underlying reason for those changes. "In hindsight, we learned my local doctor had performed the correct test initially, but for some reason it had missed the hole," Ron says. "It should have been an obvious problem."

The hole was an atrial septal defect — a large opening in the wall separating the two upper chambers of Ron's heart. The defect was finally discovered almost 10 years later. "The hole was repaired in 1996 and again in '97," Ron says. "The second repair held, but my heart was continuing to get larger and weaker."

Nine years later, a heart specialist in Lincoln, Nebraska, told Ron there was nothing left that could be done to manage or repair Ron's failing heart. "In 2006, he informed me it would be a good time to get my affairs in order," Ron says. "I was only 63 years old."

Unwilling to accept that fate, Ron asked for a second opinion. "I thought, 'If another specialist tells me the same thing, I'll have to accept it.' But I wanted to hear it again for myself," he says. "I was asked where I wanted to go, and I said, 'Mayo Clinic.' I had a daughter working in research at Mayo at the time, so I had a place to stay in Rochester. I said, 'I'm going to Mayo.'" Read the rest of Ron's story.
This article originally appeared on the Sharing Mayo Clinic blog.