All She Does is (Heart) Beat the Odds

Chelsey Cornwall hit her first jackpot with her twin sister. She hit again with her Aveir VR leadless pacemaker.

Healthy Heart|Apr.25, 2022

If you ever find yourself in the first state in the Union for gambling, make sure you swing by Reno to pick up Chelsey Cornwall on your way to Vegas. Whatever your game, you're going to want her riding shotgun.

All she's done her whole life is beat the odds. Even when they were stacked against her. But we'll get into that.

Cornwall is a twin. That happens in about 32 of every 1,000 births. Moreover, she's an identical twin, which occur in about 4 out of every 1,000. She hit the jackpot with sister Emily.

They grew up there in Reno with mom, dad and another sister.

"Childhood was great," Cornwall said. "Camping and skiing and going to (Lake Tahoe)."

Charmed. But the next flip of a card — those vagaries of life — can mean the unlikeliest of risks change the hand you're holding. For the twins, that meant a congenital condition that impacts only about 1 out of very 5,000 people: Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy. It's a mouthful. As Cornwall explains, it's when the "right side of the heart is very enlarged and doesn't work. That puts a lot of pressure on the left side of our hearts and so those started to fail."

"Our hearts." Twins.

And the hand they were holding? It had taken a turn.

From Bad Beats to Unreal Good Luck
They learned of their condition when they were 17.

"Initially, they looked at everything but my heart," Cornwall said. "Then one physician said, 'Hey, we need to do an EKG.' And then found that it was pretty bad."

Two years later, her luck was about to turn again, back to the good.

A heart was available. She was a match.

"You go on a national waiting list and then, depending on if a donor comes in and how sick you are and where you are on that list, they'll match depending on tissue type, blood type, all that stuff,” Cornwall said.

So, like any roll of the dice, probability veered toward unlikely but never impossible. And Cornwall — unlike thousands who need a heart every year but are left waiting — well, her number came up, a chance of about 1 out of 10. She was 19.

Emily? She was transplanted a year later.

Identical twins. Identical conditions. Identical outcomes, with hearts for each. That celestial connection twins share that the rest of us can only imagine, both hitting astronomical odds.

Hit Me Again
They stayed close to home for college, attending Nevada-Reno. Chelsey studied biology. Emily majored in marketing. After brief sojourns to the Bay Area and Arizona, Chelsey moved back to Reno to manage the area’s cardiac rhythm management needs — think pacemakers and implanted defibrillators, a recurrent theme in her life — for Abbott.

And her partner at the company doing the same job in the same region? Emily.

What are the odds?

Well, after about six years with her first transplant, they weren't great for Chelsey's new heart. It kept slowing down, leaving her feeling dizzy and sweaty.

"I did great for a while. I was back to my normal self," Cornwall said. "But fast-forward several years, my heart rate just dropped. My hands got really cold. I felt like I was going to pass out." 

Her heart was developing fibrosis. Her body was rejecting it. Her new heart's arteries would spasm and it would ... just ... pause.

Bum luck. She needed a new heart. Again. She hit. Again.

But then her second — no, third — heart developed its own rhythm issues.

The Rhythm of an Active Life
This time, it wasn't the plumbing that was causing the trouble. It was the electrical system.

The fix came in a trial for our new Aveir VR leadless pacemaker, the novel device that eliminates the need for the leads that can break and short leading from the battery to the heart. It's the only leadless pacemaker in the world that's designed to be retrievable as a person's heart needs change. 

Cornwall had to meet indications for the revolutionary pacemaker's global clinical trial.

And since her pacer went in? She's felt like herself again.

"I'm an active person. I like to walk my dogs, ride the Peloton, go to the gym and lift weights," Cornwall said. "And then, when I'm working, I'm on my feet all day."

She's 40 now — that's about 15 years with her most recent heart, if you're counting — and that alone beats the likelihoods for people living more than 10 years with a transplant. It's little more than a coin flip at this point.

Chelsey Cornwall is not bothered.

"Honestly, I don't think about — despite the heart transplants and despite having a pacemaker — I really don’t think much about it. (Aveir) has allowed me to go on with my life and do my thing and not have to worry about anything," Cornwall said.

She's busy. She's got big plans, including preparing for her wedding.

"I recently got engaged," Cornwall said. "I'm happy with where I'm at in life just continuing doing what I'm doing. I love being in the field. I love taking care of patients. I love being in procedures, doing all of that stuff."

Aces High on Life ... with a Safety Net
For all of its new technology, Aveir is that hand Chelsey has gone all-in with.

"I don't have to worry about my heart stopping in the middle of the night. Or feeling like I’m going to pass out," Cornwall said. "It's there when I need it. It’s a safety net. It catches me."

And Emily? Her transplanted heart is still going strong. Emily doesn't have a pacemaker but she has needed ablation to fix some minor rhythm issues. They're identical, not clones.

"She's done very well," Cornwall said. "She's had some arrythmias with her transplant that they've had to go in and get rid of them. But otherwise her transplant has been very stable."

Together, they're beating odds.

They're hitting on 19. And 20. Who does that and wins?

A couple of aces named Chelsey and Emily.

So next time you’re heading to Vegas, take a detour to Reno to see if lady luck is available for the ride. Odds are you’ll be glad you did.

Don't Wait for Life
Don't Wait for Life



Rx Only

Brief Summary: Prior to using these devices, please review the Instructions for Use for a complete listing of indications,  contraindications, warnings, precautions, potential adverse events and directions for use

Indications: The Aveir™ Leadless Pacemaker system is indicated for patients with significant bradycardia and:

▪ Normal sinus rhythm with rare episodes of A-V block or sinus arrest

▪ Chronic atrial fibrillation

▪ Severe physical disability

Rate-Modulated Pacing is indicated for patients with chronotropic incompetence, and for those who would benefit from increased stimulation rates concurrent with physical activity.

Intended Use: The Aveir™ Leadless Pacemaker (LP) is designed to provide bradycardia pacing as a pulse generator with built-in battery and electrodes for implantation in the right ventricle. The LP is intended to provide sensing of intrinsic cardiac signals and delivery of cardiac pacing therapy to the target patient population.

The Aveir™ Delivery Catheter system is intended to be used in the peripheral vasculature and the cardiovascular system to deliver and manipulate an LP. Delivery and manipulation includes implanting an LP within the target chamber of the heart.

Contraindications: Use of the Aveir™ Leadless Pacemaker is contraindicated in these cases:

Use of any pacemaker is contraindicated in patients with a co-implanted ICD because high-voltage shocks could damage the pacemaker and the pacemaker could reduce shock effectiveness.

Single-chamber ventricular demand pacing is relatively contraindicated in patients who have demonstrated pacemaker syndrome, have retrograde VA conduction, or suffer a drop in arterial blood pressure with the onset of ventricular pacing.

Programming of rate-responsive pacing is contraindicated in patients with intolerance of high sensor-driven rates.

Use is contraindicated in patients with an implanted vena cava filter or mechanical tricuspid valve because of interference between these devices and the delivery system during implantation.

Persons with known history of allergies to any of the components of this device may suffer an allergic reaction to this device. Prior to use on the patient, the patient should be counseled on the materials (listed in Product Materials section in IFU) contained in the device and a thorough history of allergies must be discussed.

Adverse Events: Potential complications associated with the use of the Aveir™ Leadless Pacemaker system are the same as with the use of single chamber pacemakers with active fixation pacing leads including, but not limited to: Cardiac perforation, Cardiac tamponade, Pericardial effusion, Pericarditis, Valve damage and/or regurgitation, Heart failure, Pneumothorax/hemothorax, Cardiac arrhythmias, Diaphragmatic/phrenic nerve stimulation / extra-cardiac stimulation, Palpitations, Hypotension, Syncope, Cerebrovascular accident, Infection, Hypersensitivity reaction to device materials, medications, or direct toxic effect of contrast media on kidney function, Pacemaker syndrome, Inability to interrogate or program the LP due to programmer or LP malfunction, Intermittent or complete loss of pacing and/or sensing due to dislodgement or mechanical malfunction of the LP (non-battery related), Loss of capture or sensing due to embolization or fibrotic tissue response at the electrode, Increased capture threshold, Inappropriate sensor response, Interruption of desired LP function due to electrical interference, either electromyogenic or electromagnetic, Battery malfunction/ premature battery depletion, Device-related complications (Premature deployment, Device dislodgement/embolization of foreign material, Helix distortion), Death.

As with any percutaneous catheterization procedure, potential complications include, but are not limited to: Vascular access complications (such as perforation, dissection, puncture, groin pain), Bleeding or hematoma, Thrombus formation, Thromboembolism, Air embolism, Local and systemic infection, Peripheral nerve damage, General surgery risks and complications from comorbidities (such as hypotension, dyspnea, respiratory failure, syncope, pneumonia, hypertension, cardiac failure, reaction to sedation, renal failure, anemia, and death)