"Life is Good": How Iris found balance with CardioMEMS

After Iris Welch's heart failure diagnosis, CardioMEMS helped her get back to traveling, cooking and family.

Healthy Heart|Jan.20, 2022

Iris Welch is living the dream.

She has five healthy grandchildren. She spends holidays serving her family extravagant meals. (“We’re Southern, so we do every dish,” she said.) She still sees her mother almost every day. She spends her spare time tending to her immaculate garden in the backyard of her Houston home. She enjoys frequent movie nights with her husband of more than four decades. She’s spending her retirement traveling the world.

Every Mother’s Day, she invites everyone over — usually 40 to 50 people — and makes a massive brunch complete with a mimosa station, buffet table and blooming flowers in her garden. “Not everybody has their mom. I’m blessed to have mine with me. I thought, ‘Why have everyone sit at home all day feeling sad when we can all just be together?’ I’ll cook and we’ll have fun,” she said.

Right now, “life is good. Seriously, life is good.”

But she’ll be the first to tell you that for much of the past decade, the dream she’s living in couldn’t have felt more out of reach.

In 2010, Iris was diagnosed with breast cancer. “So much uncertainty was out there,” but she had a solid support system and sought treatment through chemotherapy. She was determined to beat it. Sure enough, after completing chemo in 2011, her “cancer free” declaration was the light at the end of that tunnel.

She expected that it would take time for her body to return to normal. Still, two years later, Iris was shocked by how quickly and easily she’d get winded at work: “Walking up one floor of stairs felt like walking up a monument. I went and got a gym membership and thought, ‘Why am I feeling worse the longer I’m on the treadmill?’”

Iris’s mom recommended she see her cardiologist. She took mom’s advice.

Her cardiologist wasn’t particularly concerned about the results from her echocardiogram and EKG. He discussed the impact of her diet on her heart’s health and sent her on her way. Much like her experience on the treadmill, Iris knew she was getting worse, running in place and getting nowhere. She wanted answers.

Iris remembers the day she couldn’t avoid it any longer. Just a few weeks later, she couldn’t breathe. She immediately went back to her cardiologist’s office minutes before they were set to close for the weekend, and received another echocardiogram and EKG. Her results showed that only 19% of blood was being ejected from her left ventricle per heartbeat — more than 30% below average — leaving her vulnerable to severe heart episodes.

The culprit: Her chemotherapy to combat breast cancer had damaged her heart.

As someone whose “favorite thing to do” is care for her loved ones, it was difficult to accept that at only 50, she needed some serious care herself.

Iris’s family, friends and doctors sprang into action to aid her through the process of receiving a pacemaker and navigating her new normal — one that, at the outset, consisted of missing out on many of the things she loves most.

“I was already too tired to go anywhere,” she said. “I didn’t see a quality of life. I didn’t want to go further than an hour away from my cardiologist to visit my family for fear that something would go wrong. Having 10-15 pounds of fluid buildup and going to the hospital became routine.”

“It was really depressing. You don’t understand why this is happening,” Iris said. “I get cancer, and I get a huge blessing by overcoming that. But now I need another blessing because overcoming cancer gave me this heart issue. It’s a lot to take on while still thinking about how you want to see your grandkids get married one day. You think about all of the things you could miss.”

To further complicate matters, Iris wasn’t eligible for a heart transplant. She learned that in order to be eligible for the transplant list, she had to be five years removed from cancer. She had only been cancer-free for two.

But her cardiologist was determined to find a solution that would give Iris her life back. He recommended our CardioMEMS HF System, a leading remote monitoring technology, tracking her pulmonary artery pressure (a valve near the heart). It allows Iris’s clinicians to intervene, if necessary, before her heart failure can worsen, no matter where in the world she is. The higher her pressure reads, the more fluid and more problems she may have to work with her doctors to overcome. Though she’d be the first patient in her area to receive the device, her cardiologist knew that the CardioMEMS HF System could keep her clinicians informed while keeping Iris on the go and out of the hospital. Iris didn’t hesitate. “I thought, if it keeps me away from the hospital, I’m in.”

After getting her CardioMEMS Sensor inserted, her team helped her connect the dots of data, diet and activity, learning how her daily choices can impact her heart while having a team of caregivers standing by.

“There’s nothing like knowing that someone else is watching over your health. The system tracked my numbers daily, and I’d get a call from my care team if my numbers were ticking up. I thought, ‘It was probably the movie popcorn I ate.’ I learned trigger foods, which made a huge difference.”

The CardioMEMS HF System’s remote monitoring gave her the dignity she deserves — to live life the way she wants, without fear of the next time she’d need immediate care. As Iris put it, “the more I understood the device and how it works, we were gone all the time. I see my cardiologist before I leave, and they alert me before anything escalates. It’s like it gave me my life back.”

The travel plans she’d postponed in the wake of her diagnosis finally came to fruition. Iris and her husband can cruise around the world, visit their grandchildren monthly and be present for big moments, like her nephew’s recent college graduation. “That’s something I never thought I’d be able to do.”

For Iris, her wildest dreams consist of the small things.

Being able to stand over her stove for hours without needing to pull up a chair, being able to watch her children and grandchildren grow up and getting to care for others again. She’s proud of her progress, and keeps her CardioMEMS HF System’s pillow front and center in her living room — a constant reminder of how it helped turn her once distant dream into her reality.

Important safety information



The CardioMEMS™ HF System is indicated for wirelessly measuring and monitoring pulmonary artery (PA) pressure and heart rate in New York Heart Association (NYHA) Class III heart failure patients who have been hospitalized for heart failure in the previous year. The hemodynamic data are used by physicians for heart failure management and with the goal of reducing heart failure hospitalizations.


The CardioMEMS HF System is contraindicated for patients with an inability to take dual antiplatelet or anticoagulants for one month post implant.


Potential adverse events associated with the implantation procedure include, but are not limited to the following: Infection, Arrhythmias, Bleeding, Hematoma, Thrombus, Myocardial infarction, Transient ischemic attack, Stroke, Death, and Device embolization.


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.

™ Indicates a trademark of the Abbott group of companies.

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