What came to the rescue? A doctor and a pump.
Laughter - now - comes easily to 74-year-old Ken Colenda. A few years ago, the outlook was dim.
"I ended up calling the whole family out of town," said Marilynn Colenda, his wife. "I said this may be the last Thanksgiving pops will be with us."
It is the same story for 65-year-old Leslie Smith.
"I couldn't hardly do anything," he said. "Go up the stairs. I could barely make it to the shower."
"He used to sit around all the time and just sleep like this,: said Nelsenior Smith, Leslie's wife. "The television watched him."
The problem - heart failure, which affects five million Americans caused by various reasons. It means the left side isn't pumping like it should.
The affects can be devastating.
"Shortness of breath, fluid buildup in their lungs, their legs," said Dr. Jeffrey Morgan, Henry Ford cardiac surgeon. "They can't go out and walk. They can't do daily activities."
If the heart isn't pumping, how about some help from a mechanical pump? It is called the LVAD - Left Ventricular Assist Device. A control pack unit and battery pack are worn outside the body,
But it is what is happening inside the body that is keeping these men alive.
"This portion of the pump is inserted into the left ventricle, the main part of the heart," Morgan said. "The blood then comes down and enters the propeller mechanism and is then sent into the main artery of the body, the aorta."
This reunion between patients and doctors at Henry Ford Hospital is worth celebrating. Henry Ford is one of three LVAD centers in Michigan. The LVAD was considered a bridge to transplant.
For heart failure patients, survival depends on a heart transplant and the LVAD was considered a bridge to transplant.
Now doctors are discovering it is an under-utilized long-term solution.
"This technology can save lives," Morgan said. "It prolongs life for patients who might otherwise would not be around longer than six months to nine months."
Get Your Heart Racing is a fundraiser that benefits the LVAD program that kicks off with a pit party at Eastern Market June 11.
For more information, go to http://www.henryford.com/body.cfm?id=56187