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Your Healthy Family: Kirk Shiflett’s heart journey – Heart failure

Posted at 11:41 AM, Dec 13, 2018
and last updated 2019-07-09 11:27:37-04

COLORADO SPRINGS – During this season of giving, Kirk Shiflett is looking forward to giving many gifts.  He’s engaged to be married and along with his fiancee, Rose Garcia they have 9 grandkids and Kirk is expecting two more granddaughter’s before the end of the year.  Kirk says “we have a lot of Christmas presents to buy.”

He looks forward to all that shopping and feels blessed to be able to do it. Kirk is alive today because of the many gifts he has received over the last two years.  Kirk recalls, “In December of 2016, I had my major heart attack.”

Kirk was in his mid 50’s at the time, and says he was all to familiar with heart problems. “When I was in the service I was diagnosed with my first heart attack.  I was stationed on Fort Carson, I was 41 years old.”

Two other heart attacks followed before the fourth hit in late 2016.  In the aftermath, his care was referred to Dr. Natasha Altman, a cardiologist with UCHealth in Aurora who specializes in heart failure.

Dr. Altman says, “When I first met Kirk, he was in pretty bad heart failure.  He had a number of heart attacks through the years and had a big one prior to me seeing him, and he was just not  able to recover from it. In fact he was in such bad shape when I first saw him that I admitted him straight to the hospital to be tuned up.”

“Tuned up” meant a new regimen of heart medication and rest.  However, after Kirk was released from the hospital, he discovered that new medication could only do so much to help him return to a normal quality of life.

Kirk remembers, “I was walking my new puppy, a golden retriever by our farm in Rocky Ford, and I got really dizzy, almost incapacitated.  I almost fell in the ditch. I made it back to the house, about 25 yards away and took my blood pressure. It was really low so I called nurse Sarah, in Aurora, and she said ‘you need to get up here right now.’ ”

Dr. Atlman explains, “After multiple heart attacks, the heart muscle loses blood flow.  Instead of having a vibrant muscle you have (basically) scar tissue, and you can’t pump with scar.  A really large proportion of is heart was scar, so he wasn’t able to pump blood properly.”

It was clear to Dr. Altman and her team that serious intervention was required.  In our next story, we’ll talk about Kirk’s journey to a heart transplant, that included a detour that meant a pump had to be surgically implanted in his heart just to keep him alive.

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