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Tulsa resident recently celebrated 10th anniversary after receiving LVAD heart implant at INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center.

Gus Harbert to Celebrate "Home Run for Life" with OKC Dodgers

Gus and his son
Gus and his son then and now
Gus and his son

The Oklahoma City Dodgers and INTEGRIS continue the 2018 “Home Run For Life” series Saturday at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark by recognizing Augustus (Gus) Harbert, who recently celebrated his 10th anniversary with a left ventricular assist device (LVAD).

A milestone 500 mechanical circulatory support device implants have now taken place at INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center and Harbert is INTEGRIS’ longest-living mechanical heart pump patient.

“Home Run For Life” recognizes individuals in the Oklahoma City community who have overcome a significant medical event with the help of their families, physicians and health care professionals. To symbolize the end of their battle against adversity, honorees take a home run “lap” around the bases during an in-game ceremony.

“For the eighth straight year, we are proud to partner with INTEGRIS to recognize some amazing Oklahomans who have faced extraordinary adversity with their health,” OKC Dodgers President/General Manager Michael Byrnes said. “Their perseverance and courage are great examples and we are pleased to have the opportunity to honor their hard work in overcoming these challenges.”

At the age of 30, Harbert was diagnosed with an enlarged heart, or cardiomyopathy, and his heart was unable to pump enough blood through his body.

The Tulsa resident’s condition was rapidly deteriorating and doctors knew his days were numbered. They sent him to INTEGRIS in Oklahoma City, the only health care system in the state to offer a full spectrum of advanced cardiac care support, including ECMO, LVAD, total artificial heart and transplantation.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Oklahoma, and the state has the third-highest cardiovascular death rate in the country. To help improve these numbers, cardiothoracic surgeon James Long, M.D., Ph.D., moved from Utah to Oklahoma to help establish the Advanced Cardiac Care program at INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center with heart failure cardiologist Douglas Hortsmanshof, M.D.

The newly established Advanced Cardiac Care team implanted Harbert with an LVAD March 12, 2008. The device is connected to the left ventricle of the heart and attached to the aorta. It takes over circulating blood when the heart is no longer able to perform the function.

“By all medical accounts, Gus Harbert should not be alive today,” Long said. “What we are witnessing is the marvel of modern medicine. Gus was the first person we implanted when I came to Oklahoma and he is not only surviving, but thriving with this technology.”

Harbert continues to strive toward transplantation, as he lives a high-quality life working and taking care of his son in Tulsa. He credits the device for giving him 10 additional years of life.

“I was dying, that’s God’s honest truth,” Harbert said. “My son, Cameron, was only two years old at the time. He had his whole life ahead of him and I likely wasn’t going to be in it, without a miracle. The LVAD was my miracle.

“I feel great today and lead a pretty normal life. I am 40 years old now and my son is 12 and we’re looking forward to many, many more years together thanks to INTEGRIS and the Advanced Cardiac Care team.”

To read Harbert’s full story, visit okcdodgers.com.