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Saturday, February 16 , 2019, 8:53 pm | A Few Clouds 51º

 
 
 
 

Young Goleta Man Awaiting Heart Transplant Makes ‘Miracle’ Recovery

Bryson Williams, 20, suffered heart failure about six months ago; now, doctors say he may not need a transplant after all

The future is looking brighter for a 20-year-old Goleta man who has been waiting six months for a heart transplant.

Noozhawk reported in January that Bryson Williams, a Dos Pueblos High School graduate, had been admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. When he was admitted in December, Williams was suffering from heart failure and doctors installed a special pump called an LVAD, or Left Ventricle Assistance Device.

Williams has been on the pump for nearly six months, has progressively recovered and now may not need a heart transplant after all. According to his doctors, Williams’ heart has nearly fully recovered.

“We’re just ecstatic,” Debbie Williams, Bryson’s mother, said after the family heard the good news late last week. “We can’t believe it.”

Williams has cardiomyopathy, so the left side of his heart doesn’t pump enough blood. Doctors have been doing EKGs monthly to monitor how his heart is performing with the pump.

When the pump was first put in, in December, Williams’ heart was operating at about 10 percent, a rate his mother described as “basically dead.”

Each month he’s been on the pump, doctors found that his heart’s capacity to pump blood was gradually improving. When last checked, it was up to 55 percent.

Since he was responding so well, the next step for doctors was to gradually turn down the power going into the pump to see if he could function without it, which has gone surprisingly well. If doctors approve the removal of the pump, open heart surgery would be in order to take it out of his chest.

Doctors looked at the numbers Friday morning, Debbie Williams said, and made a determination that Bryson’s heart is exceeding expectations.

“The left ventricle has almost fully recovered,” she said. While the right one isn’t at 100 percent, doctors said it could fully recover once Bryson is able to get on a regular exercise routine.

Girlfriend Laura Beavers, left, and mom Debbie Williams visit Bryson in the hospital
Girlfriend Laura Beavers, left, and mom Debbie Williams visit Bryson in the hospital. (Williams family photo)

A surgeon most likely will out take the pump in two weeks to make sure Bryson’s heart can handle it, but that doctors will regroup in mid-June to make a final decision.

“It’s a miracle,” she said, adding that before, nothing was working for the 20-year-old’s heart.

One of the doctors working with Bryson is Dr. Lawrence Czer, a cardiologist at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute.

Czer estimates that only 1 percent to 5 percent of people who have this type of device recover well enough to have it removed. Although he has seen about a half-dozen people have pumps removed from the right side of the heart, Czer said Bryson is the first patient he’s seen who could sustain removal of the LVAD.

He’s been working with Bryson since December, when he was in the midst of “very advanced heart failure.”

Williams went home after he had “considerably improved,” but came back in May to check in, and “we were surprised to see that his heart was almost operating at full capacity,” Czer said.

“It looked like he had a remarkable recovery. ... That’s unusual to see that and gave us pause,” he said, adding that recovery usually occurs only if one of two things happens. The first can occur when people who have a viral infection in the heart suffer heart failure but recover, and Czer suspects that’s what happened when Williams arrived in December. 

The other scenario, which Bryson didn’t have, occurs when people have heart attacks and have the pump installed, but may eventually recover and become strong enough to live without it.

Czer said a group of doctors and surgeons at the center would regroup in the middle of June to confirm that Williams can move forward with the surgery.

Williams was just sent home Tuesday after being in the hospital under observation for about a week.

The hospital’s heart institute has performed more than 500 transplants since it started, which was the plan for Williams when the pump helped his heart gain strength. “But we’ve decided to hold off on that because he probably doesn’t need a transplant,” Czer said.

Meanwhile, Debbie Williams said they’ve come up with a great ending to their long and arduous journey.

Bryson has been so sick that he could only walk over to the window from his sixth-story hospital room and see the Hollywood sign hovering in the hills above the city for a few moments.

“As soon as this wild journey is over and he is strong,” his mom said, “we are going to hike up to the Hollywood sign and look back at the hospital and say, ‘Wow, did this really happen?’”

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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