AVON LAKE, Ohio (WJW) – After dying several times, an Avon Lake man said he’s grateful to be living with no pulse this holiday, and he hopes his story inspires others.
Kenny Wagner, 58, is now back at work at Nick Mayer Ford. Looking at him, you would never know the long health journey he has endured.
“I feel like a million bucks,” Wagner said.
Wagner has battled a long series health issues.
In 2016, he had a heart attack that led to days in a coma. Wagner said he actually died multiple times.
“I just feel grateful that God gave me the will to fight back,” he said.
Wagner took cardiac medication and participated in cardiac rehabilitation, returning to work a year later.
But his heart continued to deteriorate and failed on Super Bowl Sunday this year, again leaving Wagner hospitalized and near death.
His heart failing, Wagner’s doctors at University Hospitals Harrington Heart and Vascular Institute placed a mechanical device in his heart to help circulation.
“The heart’s still beating, but the pump is essentially doing the bulk of the workload, circulating the blood flow,” said UH cardiologist Dr. Michael Zacharias.
The left ventricular assist device, or LVAD, now pumps blood through Wagner’s body continuously.
“They don’t have the traditional heart failure symptoms that they had before,” Dr. Zacharias said.
Patients also don’t have a pulse.
“My pump is my pulse,” Wagner said.
A battery and control unit that keep the device running remain hidden under Wagner’s clothing.
The LVAD is stabilizing his heart as he awaits a heart transplant.
“I’m on the transplant list, so until then it’s just a bridge,” Wagner said. “They promised they’re going to get me a heart.”
Wagner was placed on the heart transplant list in August. University Hospitals said patients can be supported with the device for months to years while awaiting a transplant.
“I just say, ‘It’s a great day to be alive,’” he said.
Wagner credits strong support from his bosses, family, the first responders and UH healthcare workers who helped him survive.
He said he now lives each day with new purpose.
“My purpose is to inspire people, and I just feel lucky and blessed to be able to do that,” Wagner said. “If you get sick, never give up. Never give up, because there’s always hope.”