"Could Be That Every Year."
You know what gets Kevin Bourque's head spinning at 9,000 RPMs, like one of his rotors?
Don't ask him about how HeartMate 3 does its job well.
Ask him how much good it can do for so many more people.
Twenty thousand? To Bourque, that’s nice but not nearly enough. It's a number that's simultaneously massive and miniscule, a frustratingly enticing reality that, in his mind, doesn't have to stay that way.
"I'm taking it as good news that the U.S. has gone from 3,000 to close to 3,600 heart transplants a year and the patients who benefit most from transplant are getting transplanted. It's what I want."
But it's not all he wants. He wants more. Because he also knows there just simply are not — and probably never will be — enough hearts for every person who needs one.
"The problem is the number of patients who need either transplant or an LVAD are — in the U.S. alone — 60,000 to 80,000 patients a year. It's so utterly off the charts, the number of transplants is hopelessly small compared to the number of people who need circulatory support.
"There are 60,000 heart failure patients who could benefit from an LVAD. So why are we doing 4,000 of them? I can’t explain it. And that's, by the way, the U.S. Rest of the world is even more on top of that. It’s a little hard to understand."
He certainly grasps part of it.
"How it's presented" can be determinant, Bourque acknowledges. "If the doctor says 'Hey, look, here’s your choices: You can do transplant and if you get lucky, you get an organ ... or I could give you one of these things."
The put-on disdain is dripping.
"You wouldn’t want that. No matter what one of these things is."
Now he's really humming.
"If you hear a doctor tell you, 'You have cancer,' most people in the world will say cut it out, do whatever you have to do," Bourque said. “Whereas when a doctor says you have heart failure, they say, 'Ugh, do I have to take a pill every day?' They don't realize it means you're dying and it's a progressive disease and there's no cure. They don’t think of it that way."
And so, when he thinks about 20,000-plus implants so far, "Could be that every year."
And he wishes it was, to extend and save more of those 60,000 lives, to make the HeartMate 3 family much larger than it is right now.