Katie Spangler
Middle School Honorable Mention - 2013 Essential to Our Health Essay Contest
Loveland , Ohio
Heart Disease

Natasha Fleischman, a teacher and mother of two, led a busy life when she found out that she had heart disease. During a meeting with a student’s parent she collapsed from sudden cardiac disease. CPR was performed but her heart did not beat until it was defibrillated five times. This had happened to Natasha at age thirty two; today she has recovered immensely at age forty. Many people around the world have heart disease and Natasha unfortunately is one who got it. Scientists today are working rapidly for a cure. Aerospace engineers at NASA are working on an advancement to treat heart disease with a new design, a heart pump which will save lives and help people like Natasha.

Heart disease is also called cardiovascular disease. The heart may only weigh half a pound although it pumps 2,000 million gallons of blood through 60,000 veins per day. The most common sign of heart disease is narrowing or blockage of the coronary arties, which means blood vessels do not work accurately. Another sign is when blood does not pump through the body correctly, which causes heart failure. The heart then can get other problems when your heart is not working, like stroke, heart attack, Angina, and more. While having heart disease there are many symptoms. Some symptoms are chest discomfort, dizziness, sweating, nausea, light headed, shortness of breath, and discomforts of the upper body. People are eager to find a cure for this life threatening disease.

NASA has many astronauts that go into space and come back ill. This happens because while in space astronauts lose a lot of heart muscle and blood because there is no gravity. In space, their blood rises to their head and is not pumped. The heart then gets a long break. When they return to earth, the heart has to pump hard, so astronauts normally faint. This gave engineers and NASA the need to make something to help the heart in a zero gravity place. They thought long and hard of where to get the idea for something that pumps blood in a zero gravity place. Finally it hit them; they would take the design of a space shuttle pump and would shrink it down to fit in the body. This is exactly what they decided to do. The heart pump is being made at the Cleveland Clinic with NASA’s help. The pump is two inches long, 3 inches wide, and 1 inch in diameter. This is good because then the pump can fit in young children or smaller adults. The pump is used for people awaiting a heart transplant. The pump acts like a “bridge” to the heart transplant by moving blood throughout the body and regulating the heartbeat. Engineers designed the pump so that the assistant pump takes blood from the lower chamber of the heart and pumps blood through the body and vital organs. Pumps normally cause three problems: damage of red blood cells, blood clot formation, and the body’s reaction to more continual blood flow. The ventricular assistant pump has two of these problems. The first one is blood cell damage, and the second is blood clot formation. Heart surgeon Michael E. DeBakey, Dr. George Noon, MicroMed Technology, and aerospace engineers are working to overcome these problems. Michael Debakey and his group of helpers used super computers to stop these problems from happening. Michael and his group call this the ventricular assistant pump, VAD. So far, thirty two patients have successfully had the VAD implanted at European clinics with good results.

Heart disease is a life threatening disease that continues to haunt us today. Heart disease kills about 16.7 million people per year by making the heart dysfunction. Through thoughtful reasoning of NASA engineers and concerned doctors, the VAD has been developed. This new-age pump has saved the lives of several and it is my hope that it will be made affordable and available to all who suffer from the serious effects of heart disease.

Works Cited: 

• "Heart Disease." Kidshealth.org. N.p., 1995-2013. Web. 30 Jan. 2013.

• "The Heart of Matter." Teachengineeering.com. N.p., 2013. Web. 30 Jan. 2013.

• "Keeping Heart Pumping." Nasa.gov. N.p., 2013. Web. 29 Jan. 2013.

• "Warning Signs." Heartandstroke.com. N.p., 2013. Web. 29 Jan. 2013.

• "What Is Heart Disease." Nih.gov. N.p., 2013. Web. 2 Feb. 2013.