BUTLER TWP — George Rock is a man without a pulse, and he still goes golfing once a week.
Three years ago doctors told Rock he was going to die.
A virus killed the bottom of his heart in 2003, and when the 80-year-old Rock's heart failed in 2015, his doctors believed they had run out of options.
“They said they couldn't do much for him, and they were talking about hospice,” said Shirley Rock, George's wife.
That's when they heard from Dr. Suad Ismail, a cardiologist they had worked with in the past.
She kept in touch with the Butler township couple even after moving to Allegheny General Hospital. When she heard they were planning on hospice, Ismail told the Rocks to rush George down to AGH, where she believed they could save his life.
They rushed George to the hospital, where he was included in a clinical trial for the latest heart pump technology, the HeartMate II left ventricular assist device, or LVAD, which leaves him without a heartbeat or a pulse. The LVAD is a small, implantable heart pump that takes over the pumping action of the left ventricle in hearts that can no longer function properly on their own.
To stay alive, Rock runs on batteries during the day and must be plugged in at night.
“What this does is saves people's lives,” George Rock said. “It's a thing that no one knows about, but it gives people second chances.”
He was the second patient in the trial and one of the first in the region to receive the device.
Read the Butler Eagle to learn more about Rock's experience living without a pulse.