Winston-Salem, NC - A new heart device has made life easier for Shannon James.
She has a subcutaneous implantable cardioverter defibrillator implanted under her skin. The life-saving device can shock her heart to restore normal rhythm without touching her heart. This innovative device is the first of its kind and Forsyth Medical Center.
"My father has congestive heart failure, and my mother has cardiomyopathy so I inherited both," said James. "They told me with my heart only functioning at 20-25 percent, if I were to have cardiac arrest or a stroke in the night, you know, would my kids be really prepared?"
It's a situation Shannon James couldn't imagine for her little girls.
Two years ago, she volunteered for an experimental surgery to implant a defibrillator inside her body to restart her heart in the case it stops beating.
"The machine picks it up and shocks you and gives you enough time, you can call the hospital and get you where you need to be," said James.
"This is a protective measure, almost like an insurance policy," explains her doctor, Michael Drucker, Forsyth Medical Center.
Her defibrillator does not touch her heart, and there are no wires in her veins. That means she doesn't have to worry about high-risk surgeries every 5 to 10 years.
"For younger people I think this is a good device because it allows less risk involved down the road," said Dr. Drucker.
Two years down this road, Shannon and her daughters are getting used to a more manageable life.
One still with risks and uncertainty, but now full of hope.
"I feel like I will be here for my kids, and that is the main goal of it all."
She is being treated at Forsyth Medical Center which is one of only 28 facilities in the country to offer this type of device.
A defibrillator differs from a pacemaker because a pacemaker is used to speed up someone's heart while this works to slow it down.
So far, Dr. Michael Drucker says they've performed about 10 of these implants but he says patients are signing up for a waiting list.
WFMY News 2