Barbara Ann Colvin of Columbus, Ohio, calls herself the “LVAD Diva” and says she is on a journey to help the disadvantaged take charge of their lifestyle choices.
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In 2010 at the age of 55, Ms Colvin was given six months to a year to live. She had been in and out of hospitals for more than a decade with debilitating health problems and was finally getting the treatment she needed to manage her congestive heart failure. She was (and continues to be) cared for by Drs. Eileen Hsich and Maria Mountis of Cardiovascular Medicine. In fall 2010, cardiovascular surgeon Gonzalo Gozalez-Stawinski, MD, implanted her left ventricular assist device (LVAD).
“The LVAD has given me a new sense of who I am,” she says of the machine that helps a weakened left ventricular keep the blood flowing through her heart. The LVAD runs by battery during the day and is plugged in to a wall outlet at night. To keep the area sterile, she does daily dressings and hand washes as showers are limited to a couple times a week.
Often the LVAD is a bridge to receiving a heart transplant, but other health issues prevent Ms. Colvin from being a candidate for one. She says she has learned to live with the LVAD and will not allow it to define her. She is in charge.
“Upon my arrival at Cleveland Clinic in 2010, I could barely talk. Now, I can sing again. I can walk up stairs and I have the energy to speak and follow my ministry even if I have to sit down sometimes.”
Today, Ms. Colvin is an ordained elder with the AME Church traveling to area prisons to help empower the inmates to take charge of their own life choices. She herself had done drugs, and she says her newfound health gave her the strength she needed to get honest with herself and to take a leadership role in helping others.
“I tell them not to be afraid to participate in their own health. The doctors and nurses are there to listen,” she says. “I tell them that they have the right to voice their concerns and ask the tough questions and be a part of their treatment.”
In her life, Ms. Colvin watched many family members and siblings pass away from heart disease and health problems, and she is so thankful to be alive and caring for others. “For me, the LVAD is a gift from God that has given me back my life,” she says. “I am a survivor and now I want to help the next generation.”