Heart patient William Spence says that among all the difficult things he's had to endure in the last couple years, one of the bright spots has been being able to get care close to home.
Two years ago Spence, 59, of Carpentersville, got a new pacemaker after suffering major heart failure, and had a heart transplant on New Year's Day.
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"By the grace of God I got a call that there was a heart suitable for me," he said.
He's now a patient of the Shared Care program at Presence Saint Joseph Hospital's heart failure clinic in Elgin, which in September was named the state's first Shared Care site.
"It's only 15 minutes away form the house, as opposed to -- if you have traffic -- an hour-and-a-half down to Loyola," he said.
"They took and made a bad situation better, just by their attitude, their caring, just everything that they did to make it better."
Being selected as a Shared Care site involved going through training with Thoratec, one of two companies that make FDA-approved left ventricular assist devices, said site director Janet Lenz.
The site has 10 patients, women and men ages 35 to 75, hailing from Rockford, Sycamore, St. Charles and more, she said.
Other Shared Care sites have since opened at Loyola University Medical Center, University of Chicago Medical Center, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Lenz said.
All her patients have advanced heart failure, and often are candidates for LVAD or heart transplants, said Lenz, who works with specialists at heart implant centers in the Chicago area.
Dr. Erin Coglianese, director of mechanical cardiac support at Loyola, visits the Elgin site once a month to meet with Loyola patients, including Spence.
Soon that will increase to twice a month, she said.
"It's a great thing," she said. "It definitely takes the burden off patients who otherwise would have to travel all the way to downtown Chicago from out here in the suburbs."