Iman Dorty

Without innovative medical technology and the courage of her doctors and family, Iman Dorty’s son Liam might have never known his mother. Iman’s health problems began during pregnancy with severe headaches, loss of appetite and trouble sleeping. Her doctors could never identify the root problem. Fortunately, her baby stayed healthy so Iman pushed through what everyone thought was just a difficult pregnancy. She took a month away from work to see if that would restore her health, but found no improvement. Concerned about herself and her unborn child, Iman moved from Los Angeles back to her home in Columbia, South Carolina, so she could have her family’s help.      

Within a month, she had a seizure and was rushed to the hospital. Through careful testing, her doctors found that Iman’s problem wasn’t a difficult pregnancy, but rather a blood infection that had weakened the mitral valve in her heart. The damaged valve wasn’t keeping up with the increased demand of pumping blood for Iman and her unborn baby. Doctors worked quickly to save her son, Liam, and his mother. They induced labor to give birth to a healthy boy, hoping that without the demands of pregnancy Iman’s heart would regain its strength.

But Iman’s heart continued to deteriorate. Her doctors decided that it was necessary to replace Iman’s mitral valve—a common, minimally invasive operation today that would not have been possible a generation ago. Despite the success of that operation, Iman’s heart was so exhausted and weakened by infection that it couldn’t beat on its own. Iman now faced a long and perilous hospitalization. The options were grim: relying on machines to keep her heart beating while she waited for a heart transplant—or death.

Then her doctor came up with a third option—a new miniature heart pump that works inside the heart. Iman’s surgeon had the world’s smallest heart pump rushed to the hospital. He performed a minimally invasive procedure using a catheter to move the pump inside her heart and activate it. Within a week, the miniature pump allowed Iman’s heart muscle to recover its natural strength and function on its own. The pump was removed and Iman has fully recovered.

The world’s smallest heart pump was there for Iman and Liam because medical technology innovators had the freedom to build upon what was already known in safe heart pump technology—freeing them to invent something smaller, safer and better rather than spending time reinventing the wheel. Today, Iman is living proof of the value of medical technology—and the federal policies that encourage medical progress. Innovation helped save the life of her son, Liam, provided him with a healthy and loving mother, and prevented the need for more costly hospitalization.