Laura Wages’ Story
Laura Wages is a 47-year-old Registered Nurse, happily married, mother of four and grandmother of six. Having completed a half marathon in January 2017, she described herself as totally healthy. But, in the summer of 2017, Laura sought help from her primary care physician for pain in her toes. Little did she know, by August she would be wearing a LifeVest wearable cardioverter defibrillator (WCD) to protect her from sudden cardiac death (SCD).
Laura had previously been diagnosed with “premature ventricular contractions,” or extra, abnormal heartbeats, and was directed to lower her caffeine intake. Once she did, she occasionally experienced shortness of breath and fatigue. While visiting her primary care doctor for the pain in her toes, her doctor observed an abnormal heart rate and referred her to see a cardiologist. Upon evaluation, her cardiologist, Dr. George Reynolds, ordered an echocardiogram, which revealed Laura’s ejection fraction (EF) was abnormally low, at 25 percent. A normal “ejection fraction” – a measure of how efficiently the heart is pumping – is over 50 percent. Laura, a self-proclaimed “fitness fanatic,” was diagnosed with heart disease.
Knowing Laura’s low EF put her at particular risk of dying suddenly from SCD, Dr. Reynolds prescribed the LifeVest WCD. She was instructed to wear the device under her clothes around the clock, except for a short shower or bath. Her doctor explained that LifeVest would continuously monitor her heart and, if it detected a life-threatening heart rhythm, the device would deliver a treatment shock to restore normal heart rhythm. He also informed her the device would signal an alert anytime it detected a potentially dangerous heartbeat. If Laura was conscious, she could press the device’s response buttons to delay treatment. If she fell unconscious, the device would deliver a treatment shock to restore her normal heart rhythm.
As a nurse, Laura was familiar with LifeVest, had researched it on her own and knew that wearing it could save her life. “Without it, I felt terrified to do anything,” explained Laura. With it, she was able to return to work, do yard work, walk for exercise, be active with her family – and even go dancing.
One evening, while attending a Fire and Ice fundraiser with her Fire Chief-husband and friends, Laura’s LifeVest sounded an alert while she danced. Laura was conscious and aware, so she pressed the device’s response buttons. The alert ended, indicating she was not in need of a treatment, and Laura carried on with her night feeling comforted, that LifeVest was always looking out for her.
“LifeVest is like my babysitter, truly and honestly,” Laura said. “I don’t have to worry with it on. I know I’m protected.”
Laura continued to wear her LifeVest while her doctors made plans for her long-term care. Focused on her recovery, Laura is anxious to run another marathon, as well as a Warrior Dash alongside her friend, a breast cancer survivor. She and her family are grateful for the sense of security LifeVest provided.
“How do you say thank you for giving me my life back?” Laura questioned. “My life has been saved for my kids and my grandkids. LifeVest gave me my life back, and I’m going to keep fighting for it.”