WHEATLAND – Most consider heart failure a result of living a long life, an older person’s disease. At the age of 58, Randy Jaren had a heart attack which has left him living with a heart condition for the last seven years.
Jaren was at Buddy Walk in Laramie, an annual fundraiser for the Wyoming Down Syndrome Association. He and his son, Eli, were returning to the stands when he noticed a shortness of breath, nausea, basically what he thought were flu symptoms. A few days later he went to the hospital and was told he had had a heart attack. He was sent to Cheyenne where two stents were put in his heart with a third a few weeks later. Three years ago the doctors put in a defibrillator/pacemaker. All the time his symptoms continued to worsen—difficulty breathing, horrible coughing, couldn’t walk very far or do much of anything.
Then the week before Thanksgiving at UC Health in Denver, in a seven and a half hour operation, an attempt was made to put in a new defibrillator/pacemaker that had an extra wire which would help the bottom part of his heart pump better. This is done by threading the third wire through the heart vessels. However, it didn’t work. The vessels were too damaged to do the procedure so Jaren was sent home to recover.
“I was not recovering well; I got sicker and sicker and was being treated for pneumonia,” Jaren said. The constant cough got worse every time he tried to talk.
January 18, a second procedure was tried at UC Health in Loveland. This time, after separating his ribs, the doctors went through his side to attach the wires to the outside of his heart.
The surgery went well but his heart failure was worse and he went into kidney failure. Jaren was sent to the University of Colorado where he had been treated by the Advanced Heart Failure team and “I’ve been here ever since,” he said.
He was treated with medication, then sent home with two options—to continue on medication which sustain him for a best a year. The second was to have Surgeon Jay Pal install a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD), a pump to help his heart operate and sustain him until he can receive a donor heart. He is on the donor heart list.
Dick Cheney had his device installed 20 months before he had a heart transplant. Some people have waited 15 years as they are not immediate transplant candidates.
During the next 90 days, Jaren has to have someone with him 24/7 to make sure the LVAD continues to operate. If it should stop, it could be fatal.
At night he has to have electrical power while sleeping; during the day he has two battery packs with him at all times and two extra fully charged batteries when he travels anywhere. Eli is in charge of the backpack with extra equipment when they’re away from the house. Jaren has hospital check ups twice a week, each of which takes four to six hours.
“Since receiving my LVAD, I do not have a pulse. Millette, our friend Amy and Paul and Diane Robertson have all received training for my aftercare which requires taking a ‘map’ reading on an individual without a pulse. As well, they are also trained on surgical bandage changing and monitoring my equipment that is now a part of me wherever I go.
His wife and son (Millette and Eli) are with him in Denver at an apartment in Wheatridge. He has to stay within 30 minutes of University of Colorado Hospital so he can be constantly monitored until all the medications are at the correct levels as well as continual blood work. Millette’s job has provided her with a lap top computer so she can work remotely.
Heart problems are genetic to Jaren’s family. His dad died at age 59 of a heart attack and brother had a major heart attack at 56 and is also in heart failure.
Millette has sisters in Brighton and Elizabeth, Colorado. Friends and family members come and spend time with him so Millette and Eli can have “…a change of scenery. We’ve been visited by several friends from Wheatland and are blessed beyond measure. I could not have made this through without Jesus in my life. He has sustained me and I know I have been in His hands; He has revealed this to me,” said Jaren. “I’m thankful for all the prayers, cards and encouragement from friends, family and people I’ve never even met. It brightens my day every day! I believe that the Lord gives us all of our talent and it was very evident in all of the doctors and nurses in the hospital. Praise God,” he added.
If you would like to help with expenses, there are several opportunities to do so. There is a Go-Fund-Me page (www.gofundme.com/a-new-heart-for-randy). Also, Arbys has scheduled a fundraiser for Apr. 9, 4 - 8 p.m. By eating there on that day, a portion of the money will go to the Jarens. A benefit account has been set up to accept donations for Randy Jaren at Platte Valley Bank