Jennifer Cheak's Story
After a heart attack left 32-year-old Jennifer Cheak, a mother of two young boys, with a faint heartbeat and little hope at a Waco, TX hospital, she was transferred via Life Flight toMemorial Hermann Heart & Vascular Institute in Houston, where she received care from specialists at theCenter for Advanced Heart Failure. She received a Tandem Heart, and her heart miraculously began to recover.
Cheak was playing with her two young sons when she felt a tightness and pressure in her chest. A few minutes later, the
32-year-old experienced a heart attack. Her heart stopped while she was being transported to a local hospital, and, after paramedics revived her, she was rushed with a faint heartbeat to a local
hospital in Waco, Texas.
The Waco hospital said she had arrived
unresponsive, and the team knew she
needed a miracle and made the decision to send her where that could be
made into a possibility – the Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular
Cheak arrived via LifeFlight® and was
immediately taken to the Cardiac Cath Lab. It was at this time that Pranav Loyalka, M.D., associate chief of the medical division, Center for Advanced Heart Failure
at the Institute, told the patient care team, “She’s young and she’s a
mother. She has a 3-year-old at home and had her second baby three weeks ago. We are going to do everything possible to help her. Do we all understand?”
Isabel Ponce, R.N.,
B.S.N., cardiovascular intensive care unit (CVICU), said the procedure room grew quiet and an
unspoken unity was instilled in the team, signaling that they were about
to take part in a breakthrough.
“It really hit home for me
because my sister has two beautiful children and I couldn’t imagine them
living without their mom. I knew that I had to fight for Cheak and do
whatever it took to keep her alive,” said Ponce.
with fellow physicians at the Center for Advanced Heart Failure, Dr.
Loyalka, associate professor of internal medicine at The University of
Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) Medical School,
decided to intubate and insert a Tandem Heart.
“Day one was trying
to keep her alive. Morning of day two, her labs were better but she
still hadn’t woken up,” said Ponce. “By the end of day two, she opened
her eyes and was looking around. Day three she began following
Over the weekend, Dr. Loyalka removed the balloon pump
that was placed earlier that weekend because he found her heart was
beating on its own. “When we performed the first echocardiogram (echo),
her heart was functioning at 10 percent. After we removed the balloon
pump and performed the second echo, her heart was up to 30 percent,”
said Dr. Loyalka.
Cheak slowly started showing signs of
improvement; her family and caregivers were determined to get her
better. Ponce said, “Her family was incredibly supportive and there for
her every minute of the day speaking words of encouragement. They also
fully trusted me and the care team, remaining actively involved in the
plan of care.”
Cheak said, “Isabel was a fantastic nurse and I
don’t know what I would have done without her. She motivated me to not
give up and stay strong for my kids and family. I also couldn’t speak
more highly of the physician team, especially Dr. Loyalka. He is a king
among kings in my book! He gave me a second chance at life.”
result of the great care from the physicians, nurses and all the
caregivers at the Institute, Cheak has made a full recovery and is able
to stay at home with her husband and care for their newborn boy and son.