Tim Deits’ heart failed three times on Nov. 11.
The first time, the 16-year-old’s parents found him unconscious at their Huntington Beach home.
His father, Ted, was able to resuscitate him with CPR, but his heart failed again in transit to Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach and then again in the emergency room.
That day, both sides of Tim’s heart stopped working, Ted said. Doctors initially gave the athletic Edison High School sophomore a 10% chance of survival.
But some six months later, after what his family considers a miraculous turn of events, Tim’s life is nearly back to normal.
He will, however, have to live with the condition that caused his heart failures, arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia, or ARVD.
‘Angel looking out for him’
When Tim arrived at the hospital, doctors decided to go with a rare procedure: install Impella pumps into each side of his heart.
The pumps — less than a quarter-inch wide — are inserted into the bloodstream and, through the use of a motor, push blood to the rest of the body, said Dr. Anthony Caffarelli, who helped organize the procedure.
The left pump has been used in medicine for years, but the right pump had recently been given approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The right pump had been on Hoag’s shelves for only two days before Tim’s arrival, and no other hospital in Orange County has it.
According to AbioMed, the company that produces the pumps, Tim is only the second pediatric patient in the world to undergo the procedure, Caffarelli said.
“[Tim’s] got a little angel looking out for him,” he said.
The Impellas took the strain off Tim’s heart while he was put in a medically induced coma for days.
The doctors then slowly weaned his heart off the pumps until it could work on its own.
Tim was released from the hospital on Thanksgiving.
He was, Cafarelli said, “rescued from the ditches of death.”
ARVD is a genetic condition that causes fatty tissue to replace parts of the heart muscle, resulting in a weakening of the heart’s ability to pump blood.
Caffarelli said the first sign of the disease is usually heart failure during teenage years. Many patients die from it.
‘Going to be the same person’
Ted Deits said there is no cure for his son’s condition and that he will live with an implanted defibrillator on top of his left chest wall to shock his heart back into rhythm if it fails.
Tim said the defibrillator is uncomfortable, but if it saves his life, he’ll put up with it.
“No matter what goes on in my life, I am still going to be the same person,” he said. “I’m not going to let it affect my daily life.”
Before November, there had never been any sign that Tim had a serious health issue, his father said.
Tim is an energetic kid who plays hockey for Edison High and spent seven years in the Huntington Beach Junior Lifeguards program.
“If it bounces or rolls, he’s all over it,” Ted said of his son’s love for sports.
Tim is already back to his athletic ways, skiing a few weeks ago with his father in the demanding high altitude of Mammoth.
Though he may have to abandon his dream of being in the Army, he’s set his sights on studying bio-mechanical engineering in college.
“It has been tough not being able to do the things I used to do,” Tim said. But, he added, “I’m going to keep giving 100% in everything I do.”