Newly approved LifeVest defibrillator saves teens life

Jul 22, 2016, 6:55 PM
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The FDA said the Zoll LifeVest can be used by children back in December. Not long after that, 17-year-old Gisselle Castro came to Phoenix Children’s Hospital with chest pain. Doctors at Children’s said Castro had dilated cardiomyopathy, or heart failure.

Doctor Andrew Papez says Castro’s heart had very limited function.

“Gisselle couldn’t even walk for six minutes. Her heart function was so poor that she became too winded and tired to complete a six minute walk,” Papez said.

He said they found medication that allowed Castro to complete the six minute walk. They decided it would be safe for her to go home if she had the LifeVest in case she went into sudden cardiac arrest.

Papez said the vest works just like an AED that you see at the airport or the gym. He said the only difference is the vest is constantly monitoring Castro’s heart and will apply a shock on its own if the heart gets out of rhythm.

About 11 days after Castro went home from the hospital, she experienced a sudden cardiac arrest. Castro’s mom, Gricelda Quintero, says Castro was in the room with her sister when the incident happened.

“The first thing that came to my mind was she was having a heart attack… Her face started getting purple and then kind of pale. She just looked at me and closed her eyes, and that was it,” Quintero said.

Her mom said after a few seconds Castro came back, and she knew the vest was working.

“A couple seconds later it happened again,” Quintero said. “So she went back and I thought she was gone.” The LifeVest delivered another shock and brought Gisselle back.

According to Papez, the vest shocked Castro a total of four times during the cardiac arrest.

Castro came back to Phoenix Children’s Hospital after the incident, and doctors installed a permanent defibrillator.

“I’m very thankful,” Castro said. “Cause without the vest I literally wouldn’t be here now.”

Even though she doesn’t wear the vest anymore, Castro said she still isn’t a 100 percent. She is currently waiting for a new heart to make sure she doesn’t have another cardiac arrest.

Zool, the makers of the LifeVest, said currently about 500 people in Arizona are wearing the vest. Papez said the vest isn’t a permanent solution. It is just a safety measure to protect against cardiac arrests while they figure out a permanent solution for the patient’s heart condition.

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