Small Pacemaker Brings Big Energy Back to Iowa Woman

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DES MOINES, Iowa  --  It's not everyday you hear someone excited about chores, but 81-year old Trudy Hall of Ankeny has good reason.

One year ago, Trudy was struggling to complete routine tasks around her home. Doctors quickly discovered the reason, and Trudy volunteered to be a test case for a medical device that had not yet been approved.

Channel 13's Mike DaSilva talked to Trudy to see how her decision paid off.

"They told me that they had a brand new device, a pacemaker, and I thought, 'oh my goodness,'" said Trudy.

It was not just any pace maker--it was the world's smallest pacemaker, about the size of a pill.

The device is less than one-tenth the size of traditional pacemakers, cosmetically invisible to the patient after implantation, comparable in size to a vitamin, and weighs the same as a penny.

Trudy realized she needed to see a doctor a little over a year ago because she had not been feeling well for weeks. She was dragging and felt weak.

"She was really rundown. Didn't feel like she was sick or anything, she just didn't have any strength, so that's why we brought her and then there's a series of tests and stuff," said Clyde Stephenson, Trudy's son-in-law.

Trudy says doctors found out her heart "wasn't keeping pace," but decided the solution was the Medtronic Micra Transcatheter Pacing System.

"This is a tiny structure implanted into the heart itself that is the wire, the pacemaker, the battery all in one tiny device, smaller than an alka-seltzer pill," said Dr. Denise Sorrentino.

Sorrentino is a cardiologist and an electrophysiologist with the Iowa Heart Center, and was the one to implant Trudy's device.

"The Micra device has been FDA approved and available for slightly under a year, but we were involved at the Iowa Heart Center with a research protocol dating back to approximately two years before its approval, where there were devices being implanted into patients who qualified while it still was in the pre-FDA approval phase," said Dr. Sorrentino.

Trudy was one of those patients, and was able to have the device implanted into her heart before the FDA had even approved it. The procedure was done at Mercy Medical Center West Lakes in Des Moines.

"It's made a huge difference," said Clyde. "When they first did the procedure, I mean, it wasn't but hours when she was already feeling a lot better, and then by the time we got her home, she was wanting to do things, which is, I think, pretty cool."

"When I got home, I was up and around and just almost a hundred percent difference. I just could do more things," said Trudy.

The procedure itself only takes about 20-30 minutes and is not invasive.

"It all goes in through the vein at the top of the leg, which that vein is closed with a small stitch, but there's no external stitches or dressing to be removed. It's all internal, so she didn't have to worry about healing. There's no risk of incisional infection, bleeding or bruising, because everything is implanted internally, so realistically, you know the healing and recovery of this very, very, quick," said the doctor.

Because of the Micra pacemaker, Trudy's vitality is back.

"It really helps me, at least my strength is up there again and I'm able to do things and not to feel so tired all the time," she said. "I'm able to do the dishes and to do the laundry, whereas I was getting kinda slow before. I would have never thought, even pacemakers in their day were really exciting, but now this one really excites me and I'm blessed and thankful."