A pacemaker at 25. Heart failure at 27. An LVAD implant shortly after that. It was a lot to handle, but with support from her family and Henry Ford team, this mother of four now has more energy and can focus on what matters most..
Both of her parents had a history of heart problems, and Kyleisha had a pacemaker implanted when she was only 25.
Two years later, the Waterford resident and mother of four began having shortness of breath, her feet became extremely swollen and she had a hard time laying down. Her cardiologist referred her to the Henry Ford Hospital heart team, where she underwent a series of tests, was diagnosed with heart failure and was put on medication.
“For a while, I still had some minor symptoms, but I thought I was getting better,” Kyleisha says. “I didn’t have an appointment for a couple of months, and in that time, I started feeling much worse.”
The Henry Ford team recommended that Kyleisha have a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) implanted. An LVAD helps a heart weakened by failure pump blood to the rest of the body.
“They told me that it’s a bridge to transplant,” Kyleisha says. “When I found out I needed a heart transplant, I had mixed emotions. I was scared, but I have faith, and I believe when the time is right, God is going to bless me with a new heart.”
While Kyleisha was in the hospital preparing for her LVAD procedure, Henry Ford had another heart transplant patient come and talk to her, which also helped.
“After my LVAD surgery, I noticed the difference right away,” Kyleisha says. “I was in a lot of pain, but I was relieved. I could breathe a lot better, and I had more energy.”
It took Kyleisha about a month to get used to her LVAD. She had to learn how to change the batteries, and get used to the loud noise the unit makes when removing them. And it was hard to look at the wound when changing the dressing. It was also difficult to bathe herself while avoiding getting the unit wet, so her husband helped her.
“It was hard to get used to, but I can do so much more now than before I had the LVAD,” Kyleisha says. “I can walk up a flight of steps, I can get up and clean, I can go to the grocery store.”
Most importantly, she can spend more time with her family, such as taking her kids to the park. It’s been four years since her LVAD implant, when her youngest was two years old and her oldest was just nine.
“At the time, they didn’t really understand what was going on,” Kyleisha says. “But now they do, and they want to help out. They ask me if I have my extra battery, and even want to help change it out. Everybody is used to it.”
Family is very important to Kyleisha, and throughout her LVAD journey, her husband has been her rock. “He was the one that has been the most confident throughout all of this,” she says.
Kyleisha also had support from her Henry Ford care team, including when the unthinkable happened. A year after her LVAD implant, Kyleisha lost her brother.
“I become depressed,” she says. “I fell off a little bit, gained some weight and was removed from the transplant list.”
One of her care team members, Jennifer Cowger, M.D., coached her through this difficult time.
“She talked about how hard it is to lose weight, especially if you’ve never had to do this before, and given everything else I was facing,” Kyleisha says. “She motivated me to get back on track, and I lost the weight and was put back on the transplant list.”
At 32, and four years after her LVAD implant, Kyleisha feels blessed to be where she is. “You wouldn’t expect to go through something like this so young,” she says. “It really changes your perspective, and I’m so thankful for my family and everything that Henry Ford has done for me.”