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Heart to Heart Archive


Heart to Heart from Dr. James T. Willerson

April 25, 2012

Heart Stop Beating: A special fim screening

Dear Friend of the Texas Heart Institute,

Almost 6 million Americans – a number equivalent to the entire 10-county population of the Houston area – suffer from heart failure, a condition in which the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the needs of the body. Each year, an estimated 400,000 to 700,000 people are newly diagnosed. It is a large and growing threat for people of every age. Among its leading causes are diseases that damage the heart, such has high blood pressure, diabetes, viral infections, and coronary heart disease.  

There is no cure for heart failure; however, we continue to work on new, improved ways to treat heart failure and its complications.  

One increasingly important and relatively new option is a heart-assist device – a pump that helps take over the load for the heart. These are also known as LVADs, left ventricular assist devices. One LVAD, the HeartMate II, which was largely developed at the Texas Heart Institute, just reached a milestone with 10,000 pumps implanted worldwide. Since the FDA approved their use, THI at St. Luke's alone has implanted almost 1,000 LVADs of various designs.

Drs. Bud Frazier and Billy Cohn
Drs. Bud Frazier and Billy Cohn

Over the past few years, Dr. O.H. "Bud" Frazier and Dr. William E. "Billy" Cohn, have adapted the highly reliable, continuous-flow technology used in some of these pumps to do the work of both sides of the heart. Last year, a courageous patient, Mr. Craig Lewis of Houston, survived almost six weeks with a pair of these pumps functioning inside his body, before succumbing to the fatal disease that had damaged his heart and other organs beyond repair.  

Following the worldwide attention focused on this remarkable medical milestone, an engrossing documentary film, entitled Heart Stop Beating was made about the development of the total artificial heart and Mr. Lewis' dramatic case. The film has since garnered much of its own attention and praise, as it has been shown at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, and elsewhere. [This just in: ReviewFix calls it brilliant, amazing, and inspiring, "one of the best shorts" at this year's festival. Read the full review.]   

On May 1, Dr. Frazier, Dr. Cohn will join the film makers for a special screening and discussion of an extended "director's cut" of the movie at our next Community Conversation.   

Houston Has Heart!! Fine dining benefitting the Texas Heart Institute

Also, there is still time between now and April 30 to visit one of THI's outstanding restaurant partners – Tony's, Tony Mandola's, Pappas Brothers Steakhouse, Ristorante Cavour, and the Mockingbird Bistro to support Houston Has Heart!! Each restaurant has prepared a special menu with a special price, and $5 from each meal will benefit the work of THI, such as the heart pump program described above. Learn more about this opportunity to help us help people who suffer from heart failure, and other forms of cardiovascular disease, at

Thank you, and take care of your heart. 

With great respect,

James T. Willerson signature


  James T. Willerson, MD
  President and Medical Director

Texas Heart Institute: Celebrating 50 Years of ExcellenceContact Dr. Willerson

Read previous issues of Heart to Heart in the archives.

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