Health & Medicine

Man whose heart nearly failed returns to Sutter hospital to thank the doctors who saved him

A man who was reaching end-stage heart failure three years ago reunited with the two doctors who saved his life on Monday morning at Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento.

Bouba Dieme returned to Sutter with his family for the first time to thank his former doctors: Dr. Zijian Xu, Sutter Heart & Vascular Institute’s heart failure cardiologist and electrophysiologist Dr. Subramaniam Krishnan.

“They saved my life in many, many ways. Life means so much more to me now than it did then. There’s more meaning and energy in my life than I had before. They gave me the will to go back and fight the situation to get better,” Dieme said.

In 2016, Dieme flew from Senegal to Sacramento as part of former President Barack Obama’s young African Leadership Initiative. He believed the future for his native Africa lie in energy optimization, and he had dreams to bring solar power to Africa.

Immediately upon arriving, however, Dieme was admitted into Sutter Medical Center, where he was diagnosed with a rare congenital heart defect called Left Ventricular Non-Compaction Cardiomyopathy. This meant that the walls of his ventricle are soft and spongy. He also learned that he had been at risk of sudden cardiac arrest due to irregular heart rhythms, or V-tach.

“So you go from a point where you’re excited about work, excited about business and then everything is stopped. I was still young, so I was at a point where life really didn’t make sense anymore, didn’t have any meaning. It’s not a good place to be,” Dieme said.

After days of tests and a cardiac MRI, Dr. Xu and Dr. Krishnan worked together to stabilize Dieme’s heart for the next two months. Dr. Krishnan implanted a defibrillator, which was critical because within a few days, Dieme went through sustained ventricular tachycardia and it was the defibrillator that saved his life.

Dr. Xu was then able to stabilize Dieme’s cardiac hemodynamic condition with medications such as constant Milrinone intravenous infusion.

“They allowed me to really have a positive outlook in life and to keep it together with my wife. They did so much more than just the work, so it was only normal for us to come and show them that this is a journey we love to be part of. And also for the long-term, I’m hoping that this situation will benefit other families. It means a lot that they made time to meet me and my family,” Dieme said.

Dieme now lives in Boston with his wife and three children. Sutter Medical Center worked with heart failure specialists at Brigham & Women’s Hospital to continue his treatment. He obtained a “bridge to transplant,” or left ventricular assist device, in Boston and is now waiting for a heart transplant to ensure long term survival.

He has been on the waiting list for two and a half years.

“The waiting time depends on where you live, what your blood type is, your size,” Dr. Xu said. Dieme is 6 feet 7 inches tall and “for a large person, it’s going to be more difficult because you need a size that matches his body size as a donor and you don’t find that many big donors,” Dr. Xu said.

With his left ventricular assist device, Dieme has been able to run and attend martial art classes twice a week. His physical health is especially important to him because he wants to be able to stay active with his son. After the transplant, he hopes to continue his dream of bringing energy optimization to Africa. He is currently working on a foundation to improve public health in Africa, especially to those like himself born with heart defects.

Dieme currently uses an Abbott HeartMate 3 heart pump. For more information on LVAD, or heart pump, visit https://www.heartmate.com/healthcare-provider/heartmate-3-lvad.

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