Hunters share special bond that helps keep them alive

KATY, Texas – An LVAD is necessary when someone’s heart can no longer successfully pump on its own. It's a battery-operated device worn partially outside of the body.

Patients carry five pounds of batteries at all times. The lifestyle can seem overwhelming and restrictive but a Katy man is on a mission to prove life with it is better than before.

Looking at video of Curtis Dumesnil, you can see his body was shutting down.

“It was killing me because I just, I mean, I couldn't walk from here to the ottoman. It was just impossible,” he said.

For someone who was previously an active and accomplished hunter, being immobile was awful and he was desperate to get back to what he loved.

“ I would sit here and watch hunting shows on TV and see people doing the things I love to do and think, ‘Dear God, could I ever do that again?’”

That's when he found Dr. Jerry Estep at Houston Methodist Hospital.

“Our goal for the majority of our patients is for them to return to those activities they enjoy and fortunately where the device is, technology is, and the medical management, we’re seeing the majority of our patients attain that goal,” Estep said.

Getting back to normal activity was as easy as that for Curtis. He got an LVAD and got back to hunting.

Now he coordinates groups of hunters who also have LVADs to go on an annual trip around the holidays to a ranch in Longview, Texas.

“Some of their caregivers go, their family members go, so it's not just strictly LVAD recipients who get to go on this trip. We take anybody,” Dumesnil said. “I've had them there in wheelchairs, I've had them there in walkers. We've got all kinds of stands, on the ground, halfway up and real high.”

All of them have to carry battery packs and cords, but Dumesnil has creatively designed ways to make it easier, enjoy his life and his message for everyone facing bad news of heart failure: you can too!

“You have to learn to live with the batteries and control that you use but it's very simple. In the beginning, it seems really cumbersome to people but it's really not,” he said.

Estep said he encourages patients to be aware of where they will have access to electricity when traveling. However, he says, the batteries can last up to 14 hours so patients are by no means confined to their home.