• Cardiovascular

    Wedding Surprise: Heart Failure Patient Works with Mayo Team to Leave Hospital, Walk Daughter Down Aisle

Andre Pearson, a heart failure patient who has been at Mayo Clinic since March, initially was too ill to leave the Rochester, Minn., hospital to go to his daughter’s wedding in California. He had resigned himself to watching it online. But a few days before the Saturday evening ceremony, with Mr. Pearson doing well, his care team decided to explore whether it might be possible for him to make the trip after all. With the right game plan in place, they determined that it was. A Mayo staff member accompanied him, and Mr. Pearson surprised his daughter, Alexandra, by arriving the evening before the wedding in Indio, Calif., and promising to walk her down the aisle.

"I can't help but cry, but it's tears of joy," Mr. Pearson said Thursday, after learning that he had received medical clearance to leave the hospital for the wedding and his travel plans were under way.

When Mr. Pearson, 61, of Omaha, Neb., arrivedwedding at Mayo in late March, it looked like he might have only a year to live. The ordained pastor was too ill to qualify for a heart transplant, and his kidneys were failing. After surgery in which Mayo surgeons repaired his heart valve and, for the first time at Mayo, implanted both a left ventricular assist device and a temporary right ventricular assist device to help his heart pump, followed by ongoing dialysis and physical rehabilitation, Mr. Pearson is now well enough that he will likely return home within the next month.

After that, he will be evaluated for a possible heart transplant. His kidneys are recovering as well, so he may not need dialysis long-term. His lead cardiac surgeon, David L. Joyce, M.D., credits Mr. Pearson’s tenacity for his recovery.LVAD RVAD figure01

"Really, if you were just to look at everything on paper, you would say, `There's really nothing here we can offer.' Then when you meet Mr. Pearson and you realize what he's capable of, then you start to think outside the box a little bit," Dr. Joyce says. "That's when we came up with the idea of using a new device for supporting the right heart (the right ventricular assist device). He was kind of a pioneer and willing to take on that uncertainty, and it actually worked out beautifully."

Mr. Pearson is the brother of former Dallas Cowboy Drew Pearson, famous in Minnesota for catching a "Hail Mary" pass against the Minnesota Vikings. Not knowing that Andre Pearson’s brother was Drew Pearson, Dr. Joyce told him before surgery that it would be a bit of a Hail Mary pass; Mr. Pearson and his wife, Gina Pearson, then remarked that they know all about those.

Journalists: Video of Mr. Pearson surprising his daughter and walking her down the aisle and of Mr. Pearson and Dr. Joyce discussing his medical case and the "Hail Mary Pass" is available in the downloads. For interviews, please contact Sharon Theimer in Mayo Clinic Media Relations at newsbureau@mayo.edu or 507-284-5005.

To help make Mr. Pearson's trip to California possible, his care team scheduled dialysis for him before his Friday departure and after his Sunday return to Rochester. Ventricular assist device coordinator Sarah Schettle accompanied Mr. Pearson on his journey.