Man with No Pulse Runs 5K. (Seriously!)
Have you ever asked yourself, “How much more of this can I possibly take?” Well, then this is the story for you because the story of Mark Sandy will surely put life into perspective for all of us.
Mark Sandy and his family live in Circleville, Ohio which is just outside of Columbus. They lived a fairly normal life. He had had a few heart attacks before, but in December of 2012, he suffered the worst one. It was a massive heart attack. His heart stopped for five minutes and he aspirated into his lungs. He died.
The Columbus hospital induced a coma and transported him to the Cleveland Clinic about four hours away. He woke up about 10 days later in a different city, his family was there with him (even his mother from England was there.)
Being so far from home his family remained there as well. It was really tough on his wife Tracey. Now I just met Tracey. In fact, I met her in a kindness group on Facebook and she was sharing a story about how her family performs random acts of kindness. I messaged her for permission to use her words in a post. It was then that I learned of her larger story – the story about HOW kindness became woven into her family – how kindness from a stranger actually kept her afloat during dark days.
“We were at the hospital waiting on a bus, we hardly had any money. We were sleeping in the hospital waiting room,” Sandy tells BeingBetterHumans. “A stranger came over and told me that he’d had a heart transplant and that he would be praying for our family. He put something in my hand and hugged me and my son. As he walked away, I opened my hand to find $200, my son and I couldn’t believe it. A stranger. It was a blessing.”
Mark’s heart was in such bad shape that death was imminent. At the end of December, the doctors told Tracey that he wasn’t going to make it. Then a miracle happened. A device was available as a last chance. It is called LVAD. They would surgically implant the LVAD, a battery-operated, mechanical pump, which then helps the left ventricle (main pumping chamber of the heart) pump blood to the rest of the body.
The only problem was, the family had no insurance and it was really, really expensive. They prayed. The Cleveland Clinic ended up paying for the device for Mark with no cost to him. On January 9th, 2013 Mark Sandy got a new chance at life.
After 7 long months, The Sandy Family, including Mark, all finally returned home. It has been a lot of hard work but Mark is doing well.
Tracey told us, “My husband now has a Lvad, it is an electric heart pump. He has no blood pressure or pulse nor a heartbeat. He has been waiting for a heart for almost 5 years now. He is doing okay with his heart pump at the moment. He ran a 5k this summer. Without our community supporting us, we wouldn’t have made it. People were so kind and generous so we feel we have to give back.”
Yes, you read that right. Mark ran a 5k this summer. Pretty incredible for someone who technically doesn’t have a pulse. Or a heartbeat.
You would think so far this story is incredible as it is, but Tracey told us, “Mark is hooked up to batteries at all times. If you look at the picture of him running, you can see his battery pack. Anyways, last October (2016), he had a broken wire in the Lvad so they kept him in the hospital to wait for a donor’s heart.”
“We were told he wouldn’t come home without a new heart. All of October passed then November and the week of Christmas, they found out, he had cancer and they took him off the transplant list. They found cancer on his kidney by a fluke. They were looking at the wires but found cancer instead,” Sandy recounts, “They ended up replacing the electric heart pump. He became diabetic, then had a stroke, his first seizure, then he was in respiratory distress. Medication damaged his lungs.”
Mark is now cancer-free.
“I have what Iron Man has but not the Hollywood version! And, except I can’t fly,” Mark tells BBH. “The Lvad is great for people with end-stage heart failure or congestive heart failure. And when I tell people this it gives them hope. It not only has saved my life but changed my whole world for the better.”
“I now see everyone as equals and everyone is beautiful. I see seasons in detail, I see the need to help people that others frown upon. I see that life is too short to waste time.”
“I have learnt so much about the human body, me, how fragile life can be and where I want to be. Five years ago I was quiet and just had a regular life. Now I am confident and want to stand up in front of people and tell my story.”
If you have been inspired by Mark’s story, please let him know by visiting Heart of Mark.
His web page contains more about his story, photos, his kindness work, his Neighborhood Ministry, other projects he is working on, and SO MUCH MORE. He has a great sense of humor and just in my brief encounter, I can tell you I was deeply affected.
Tracey and Mark make giving a family affair. Tracey says, “Last weekend, we went to the dollar store and taped a $1.25 to random items like kid toys, food, and hygiene items. We covered the bar code so it wouldn’t scan. We stood on the road where the homeless stand and held signs. We paid for an elderly couples food at a restaurant. We went to where the homeless stay and passed out hygiene supplies, gloves, food and blankets. They let us into their home and showed the kids how they live. We try and spend a whole day once a month doing these sort of things. I keep hygiene products, and water in my car at all times to pass out. Kindness can go a long way.”
I don’t know about you but after hearing their story, I’m never complaining again about anything I’m going through. I encourage you to visit Heart of Mark to learn more, and if you can afford it make a donation of any amount (we all know a little from many adds up). In the spirit of giving, I hope you will do a couple kind acts as a tribute to the story you have read here.
Sheila Burke is an inspirational and motivational author and Founder of both Being Better Humans and Zen-Sational Living.
Her writing has been featured in Amazon Best Sellers and USA Today Best Selling books. Enriched Heart (2016),
Chorus of Souls and Booyah Spirit! are all Amazon Best Sellers.
Sheila lives with her husband Shane and they have raised three amazing children. Sheila on Amazon
This is our story. I was living in Tennessee and started chatting with Mark online in 1999. It was a random chat that used to be available using ICQ, the days before chat rooms and online dating. We were like the pioneers of internet romancing. Mark was living in England at the time. He flew over to meet me and I was totally smitten. After flying back and fourth for 3 years we decided to get married. In 2005 we welcomed our son Joshua into this world, although he arrived a little late in our life he was a blessing and is a joy . Then December 7th 2012 arrived and changed our lives forever. Mark called me from his car and told me that he loved me and our son Joshua and he wanted me to just hear those words before he died. He told me he was having the worst chest pains ever and I told him not to go anywhere. I called 911 and told them where they could find Mark. My friend (Jill Stout) and I beat Mark to the hospital. Once inside they told me Mark was having a major heart attack. He was in so much pain you could tell by looking at his body language how much he wanted the pain to stop. The nurse gave me towels to try and keep him dry because he was sweating so much. They wanted to life flight him to a different hospital but the weather was bad. An ambulance drove him to a larger hospital 40 minutes away and I was told by the time I get there he would be in surgery getting a heart cath done. When I got to the second hospital it was around 6:15pm and shortly after arriving I hear CODE BLUE IN THE CATH LAB. I knew in my heart it was Mark. A nurse came out and told me the doctors needed to see me in this little room. The little room that never has good news! A doctor came in and told me that my husbands heart had stopped and they were doing CPR and that he had aspirated into his lungs. After 5 minutes had passed they were able to get his heart started again. Mark was on life support and had a balloon pump in his heart and a few hours later a doctor told me that I needed to send Mark four hours away to the Cleveland Clinic. He said that Mark’s left ventricle was severally damaged which is the big pumping chamber. I agreed with the doctor to send him and within hours, Cleveland sent a critical care ambulance to pick Mark up. I followed the ambulance to Cleveland. I didn’t have a change of clothes or toiletries or even a hairbrush. My 7 year old son was with me and we were stuck in a strange town 4 hours away from home and in a strange hospital. We never ever left Mark’s side. My family and friends would bring my son and I food and clothing but could only stay for a few hours. At first we were sleeping at the hospital in the waiting room and then a social worker set up a hotel stay for us. My mother-in- law flew over from England to be with us. The icu unit is the scariest place in the world. All the beeping noises and the nurses and doctors and the code blue’s freaked me out. I suffer from depression and serious white coat syndrome. I had no other choice but to face my fears. I would rub lotion on Mark’s feet and legs and my little boy would help. He would sit and hold his daddy’s hand and just talk to him while his daddy just laid there on life support. I turned to social media so that anyone and everyone could pray for Mark. I uploaded pictures almost daily of Mark so people could follow his progress. We needed prayer warriors. After 11 days they started lowering the medicine that kept him asleep. I would be so hurt when the nurse would come in and ask him to squeeze her hand and he would but he would never do it for me. I just wanted him to wake up so I could see those eyes again. He woke up right before Christmas. My little boy and I went out and bought a small plastic Christmas tree for his room. My son was worried that Santa wouldn’t find him at the hospital and I have the sweetest picture of my son looking out my husbands icu window looking for Santa. Mark would have a hard time breathing and they would put him on a bi pap machine for hours at a time. The machine and medicine made him see terrible images and gave me anxiety. Finally around December 27they were taking him out of icu and they put him in a step down unit. They were talking about releasing us before the New Year. On December 28th they gave my husband Lisinopril which is good for the heart but lowers the blood pressure. Within a few hours Mark was back down in icu with extremely low blood pressure and chest pains. They gave iv fluid to him to build up his blood pressure and they had to put the balloon pump back in his heart. The iv fluid filled his lungs and he went back on life support and was sedated again. At 9:00 am New Years Eve a doctor came in and told me that Mark may not make it through the day and to be prepared. I called my family who all drove to Cleveland to say their goodbyes. By midnight Mark woke up and wanted a New Year’s Eve hat and wanted to be a part of the nurses party. Mark couldn't quite understand why everyone was there to see him, he asked if they were there to say goodbye, I replied, no. they are here to just see you. I've only just told him they were there to say goodbye. Now we waited. We didn’t know if they were going to stick this thing called an lvad in him or a new heart or just keep him comfortable until he passed away. He was on life support but wide awake. They couldn’t give him sedation medicine because it would lower his blood pressure so he would write on a note pad. For days he wrote, and wrote and wrote. He would play hangman with our son while on a ventilator. They would watch Ellen together everyday. The nurse would crack up because my husband wanted to watch Ellen daily. We didn’t have insurance and I was scared they wouldn’t do anything for my husband. I just wanted them to do something for him while he was somewhat stable. Finally the surgeon came in and told us he would be doing the Lvad surgery. He also said that he set up payment arrangements with the hospital for $20.00 a month and that if we couldn’t pay it that he would. The surgeon never once told me the risk of the surgery and the only thing he told me was that he was going to take good care of my husband. Two days later on January 9th 2013 they implanted the Lvad in my husband. Two days later he was finally off the ventilator for good. He was awake! Life from that point changed for us. The Lvad is a left ventricle assisted device. My husband no longer has a pulse. A motor was planted into his chest. A tube is inserted into the bottom of his heart and a tube is inserted to by pass the hearts pumping chamber. He has to be plugged into to a wall outlet because the motor is run on Electricity. When he is away from home he is connected to two batteries that runs the motor. Electric is the most important thing in our lives. A cord comes out of his stomach and is connected to a computer that he wears around his waist to run the motor. A few weeks after this surgery he had another one to place a defibulator in him. My husband was scared to have the ventilator removed and scared to leave the icu and finally after being in the hospital almost two months in icu he was released on his birthday January 28th 2013. It wasn’t easy because we were still not able to go home. We had to stay in a hotel across the street from the hospital. It was more for our benefit so that we become custom to all the equipment and sterile dressing changes. We drive four hours every few weeks to see his Lvad team. Its a lot of work packing up all of his equipment for any trip. Every where we go we have to make sure the outlets are 3 prong ground. We have a lot of medical equipment. The maker of the LVAD trained our local fire department and ems before we came home. He can no longer have cpr because it would break up the pipes and motor of the lvad. Our local hospital where he would do cardio rehab have been trained with policies and procedures in place. Our local hospital never had a lvad patient before. We all came home the second week of February. We hadn’t seen home in months. Our Christmas tree was still up and gifts to unwrap under the tree. One of the hardest parts would be the looks we get. My husband has two big batteries hanging from both of his sides and a fanny pack that’s around his waist that has lights. Imagine walking into a elementary school to pick up your child and you see a man that looks like this, looks like a bomb! Most people have never even heard of the Lvad. They don’t realize its really a life support device to give people with the end stage of heart failure a better quality of life. He is scared to get pulled over by the police. He is so afraid people will think he has a bomb attached to him. Our little boy is so great. He draws pictures of his dad as a robot. Another little boy thought my husband was a zombie because my husband has no blood pressure or pulse. One nurses in icu took such good care of my husband. She showed him such dignity and respect. She was a younger nurse that had an old soul. She would come in on her days off to work with him and she made sure that her good friends would be the ones taking care of him on her days off and different shifts. Heather Horton was our Angel. They had a recliner in my husbands room so I could sleep with him at night and she would make the recliner all up with blankets like a bed for me. The surgeon who offered to pay the hospital bills was another Angel. We have been truly blessed. Since Mark cant work our only household income is from worker’s compensation from where I was injured at my job and i await hip surgery. Mark does now receive disability but its the minimum, Its only enough to barely pay the bills so Marks surgeon was God sent. I just want people to be aware of what the Lvad is so they don’t make the Lavd recipients feel like a criminal. Mark was speaking to a police officer one evening and the police was amazed by the Lvad and he said to him it looked like a bomb. He told us that the police department really needs to be trained because they are the ones first on the scene and they need to know what it looks like and they need to be informed that he cant have cpr. This is why I am writing this to educate people around us and tell our story, so that you maybe able to get the word out about the Lvad. My husband is on the Heart transplant now, but it could be from a week to years of waiting. Please register at donatelifeohio.org and talk to your family about your wishes. So many people don’t realize that even though they are organ donors if something happens to them that their family are the ones with the final say. Thank you for taking the time to read our story. Tracey Sandy.
My Trip Half Way to Heaven.
I closed my eyes at Berger hospital ER and honestly thought I had died. I awoke to see myself sitting in airplane style seating. There were people either side of me and actually all over the place. This was an enormous vessel and for some reason I have a vision that it was shaped like a B2 bomber. Everyone was wearing tight, white, multi colored T-shirts. I never saw anyone's faces, but I did see people moving around. Not walking, more like gliding. Occasionally, mine and everyone's bodies jerked like they were being shocked, but know one was discouraged by the intense motion. Everyone was watching flat tv screens and holding some type of game controllers, but this was not gaming at all. More like decision making. I felt like this was going on for hours, then I was asked to take the exit to the right. There were people waiting at the left exit as well but I was going to the right. I wasn't verbally told, I just knew. This guy at the exit door was the only person not wearing what everyone else was wearing, they were wearing like a bomber jacket. I never saw his face just like the rest of the travelers but I felt a warmth of happiness and content from this one person. I could not understand why I was watching all this happen, looking down on myself. No one was sad, happy, hungry or talking. We all just sat there waiting. So back at the exit, this guy put his arm out and ushered me out the door. I awoke to find myself lying in a bed in Cleveland clinic, with my wife, son and mother who was supposed to be in England! I wrote down on paper, " where is the vessel?". On the 31st of December my lungs began filling with fluid and my heart wasn't strong enough to get the fluid off. I began to die but I shouted for Gods forgiveness and asked to spare me as I wanted to live. By midnight and at the turn of the year, I was sitting up in bed, with a happy new year hat on. I was allowed to live and carry on my journey. I have so much faith now that I cry about it. I pray, I feel that sometimes I have to tell people to live for today. I believe that The Lord gave me another chance because there is something special for me to accomplish before my time is up. I am a stronger and better man. Faith chose me. I believe that when my heart stopped on December the 7th I was on my way to heaven, but I had enough strength and faith to be turned around. I would have loved to have met The Lord, but honestly I'm not sure that I didn't. God bless.......
An update on my story.
On December 7th 2012 I closed my eyes. I was being pumped with so much medicine that it was hard to keep my eyes open. The medicine was there to take the pain away from my chest. A pain that I had never felt before. It wasn't really a pain, but more a feeling of death. I remember waiting for the squad to arrive, not wanting to die, but knowing that this could very well be it. I'd already told Tracey I loved her and to tell Joshua I loved him to. The women waiting by me, kept me thinking about the sound of the sirens from the ambulance rather than giving up. I think their adrenaline was pumping just as fast as mine. So, closing my eyes was it, a feeling of sorrow, goodbyes and tears in my eyes. A week goes by and the first words I spoke were, " where is the airplane". Over a year on and this still troubles me. My vision of half way to heaven stayed with me right until I opened my eyes. Nothing else was on my mind. God was with me on December the 7th 2012. He put everyone at a place where they would help me, cry over me, support me and be the most amazing spiritual support group ever. Time is of a different presence in heaven than here on earth and I was there for a while. Everyone with me were from every walk of life. Sad, happy, good and bad. It didn't matter who they were. Everyone there with me were the same. Although I remember wondering where I was, but I was at peace. We were just all being chosen. I wasn't one of the lucky ones or was I? I had no thought of everyone I'd left behind, just trying to figure out where I was. I think I was already in heaven, I was just one door away. Then my eyes opened and it was revealed. My relationship and journey with God and Jesus Christ was to begin. I find myself a lot of the time thinking about life. It's like day dreaming but spiritually. In the month of January, I doubted my faith, my life, my being here. Never again will I allow the light from my faith to dim, never allow my life to be questioned and my being here to ever be doubted, for my presence on this earth, happened for a second time, for a good reason. To teach, to love and to learn.
So at one point in the first month of this tragic illness, my sister in law and brother came to visit. They flew over from England and stayed for 4 days. I remember being awake on the ventilator and then being taken off. I was able to breathe and talk to them. Then after about 2 hours I felt myself pass out and the crash team ran in my room. The next thing I remember was being very sad because I knew my sister in law and brother were flying home. My brother entered the room and put his jacket on, I wrote on some paper, Michael (my brother), who's jacket is that? A question that you knew ask, you'd normally ask, where did you get that jacket from or nice jacket. It turned out to be his brother in laws jacket that was left to him after he had tragically been taken in a sudden heart attack. I'll leave you to figure that out!
2016/2017 Update October 10th 2016.
I went in to the Ross Heart hospital at OSU Columbus Ohio to have my liver checked. While I'm there my LVAD alarm began to alert me that there was a problem. A couple of guys flew in to fix the issue but that night my alarm sounded again. It turned out to be a fracture of my internal LVAD wires. This meant that I would either have to get a heart transplant or a replacement LVAD.
So for the next 3 months, I sat in a hospital room at OSU awaiting the news that a heart could be available. Also at this point I had now been moved to the very top of the transplant list. (1A)
What happened next was not part of the plan!
So one day I noticed a little more drainage from my drive line site. This is where the wire goes from the outside control unit to the pump, that's inside me.
So the doctors decided to do a abdomen scan. I had to wait all over the weekend until the Monday to finally get the results. The scan found a cancerous area on my kidney.
So this new news meant that I could not be on the heart transplant list until it was removed and I'd had the all clear.
The New year was coming around and I wanted to go home. I was healthy enough so I managed to stay at home for 4 days. On the forth day I was called back in to hospital to get a blood transfusion and that's where I stayed for the next couple of months.
To cut a long story short, I code blued which means I needed help to keep me alive.
I then had a new LVAD and was going to have the cancer removed, but there was a large hematoma so the cancer for now remained.
Because the human body sometimes doesn't like internal organs being moved around problems arose.
I had kidney failure and had to have dialysis everyday. My pancreas took a hit, meaning that I had to check my blood sugar 3 times a day.
My oxygen dropped, my lungs struggled because I had been put on a medication for a lung infection that ended up doing more harm than good.
(Pulmonary toxicity is estimated to occur in approximately 5% of patients taking amiodarone and is considered to be the most serious adverse effect associated with its use. Early recognition of toxicity and withdrawal of amorodian is associated with a good prognosis in the majority of patients.)
I had to be put of a ventilator. I went through ICU Psychosis which is like being trapped in your own body and are not able to get out.
There were so many things going wrong with me, I am actually amazed that I am still here.
On the 28th of February I was discharged from hospital. For the next 4 weeks I have had to learn how to walk again as my leg muscles were basically useless.
I am blessed to still be here but this isn't over yet. There is still a long bumpy road to conquer but with all my support I should be able to get through the next stage.
July of 2017 I spent 3 weeks in OSU again to have the cancer removed. A Partial nephrectomy, I am now Cancer Free with a 1% chance of it coming back. February 2018 is my next PET CT scan to make sure I have no cancer, so hopefully I can be relisted back on the transplant list. Tomorrow isn't promised so I am living everyday as it was my last.
January 2019 update. June of 2018 I got a clot in my LVAD. I had planned a vacation to Florida and was told by my team I was allowed to go. But when I got back I wasn't allowed to leave the hospital as the clot was threatening my life. 7 days later of the 27th of July 2018 I got my gift of life, my new heart.
What Is a Ventricular Assist Device?
A ventricular assist device (VAD) is a mechanical pump that's used to support heart function and blood flow in people who have weakened hearts. The device takes blood from a lower chamber of the heart and helps pump it to the body and vital organs, just as a healthy heart would. (For more information about how the heart pumps blood, go to the Health Topics How the Heart Works article.) Overview You may benefit from a VAD if one or both of your ventricles (VEN-trih-kuls) don't work well because of heart disease. Ventricles are the lower chambers of your heart.
A VAD can help support your heart:
•During or after surgery, until your heart recovers.
•While you're waiting for a heart transplant.
•If you're not eligible for a heart transplant. (A VAD can be a long-term solution to help your heart work better.) A VAD has several basic parts. A small tube carries blood out of your heart into a pump. Another tube carries blood from the pump to your blood vessels, which deliver the blood to your body. A VAD also has a power source that connects to a control unit. This unit monitors the VAD's functions. It gives warnings, or alarms, if the power is low or the device isn't working well. Some VADs pump blood like the heart does, with a pumping action. Other VADs keep up a continuous flow of blood. With a continuous flow VAD, you might not have a normal pulse, but your body is getting the blood it needs. Research has shown that, compared with other VADs, continuous flow VADs may decrease hospital stays and complications and improve survival. However, more research is needed. Types of Ventricular Assist Devices The two basic types of VADs are a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) and a right ventricular assist device (RVAD). If both types are used at the same time, they're called a biventricular assist device (BIVAD). The LVAD is the most common type of VAD. It helps the left ventricle pump blood to the aorta. The aorta is the main artery that carries oxygen-rich blood from your heart to your body. RVADs usually are used only for short-term support of the right ventricle after LVAD surgery or other heart surgery. An RVAD helps the right ventricle pump blood to the pulmonary (PULL-mun-ary) artery. This is the artery that carries blood from the heart to the lungs to pick up oxygen. A BIVAD might be used if both ventricles don't work well enough to meet the body's needs. Another treatment option for this condition is a total artificial heart (TAH). A TAH is a device that replaces the ventricles. VADs have two basic designs. A transcutaneous (tranz-ku-TA-ne-us) VAD has its pump and power source located outside of the body. Tubes connect the pump to the heart through small holes in the abdomen. This type of VAD might be used for short-term support during or after surgery. Until recently, VADs were too big to fit in many people's chests, especially women and children. Only people who had large chests could get them. However, recent advances have resulted in smaller, more reliable devices. This now makes treatment with VADs an option for more people. Researchers also have made advances in how well VADs work and how much they improve people's quality of life. In the past, VADs mostly were used for people who had end-stage heart failure. Now VADs also can help people who have earlier stages of heart failure. Children who have heart failure also can be treated with VADs. VADs approved for use in adults sometimes are used in children if the children are large enough for the device. Also, the Food and Drug Administration recently approved a VAD designed for smaller children.
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