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Heart Pump Is a Lifeline for Former NFL Star

Heart Pump Is a Lifeline for Former NFL Star

 

 

For most of his life, 62-year-old Robert "Bobby" Lyles was the picture of health. The former NFL linebacker completed a successful career playing for the Houston Oilers and Atlanta Falcons and went on to hold several coaching positions.

Then a series of medical problems began in 2010 when Bobby was diagnosed with an enlarged heart. Eight years later he suffered a stroke.

“I used to never get sick,” he recalled.  “My family was really worried.”  Then, Bobby collapsed at home due to heart trouble.  His health continued to decline.  In the summer of 2022,  Bobby collapsed while on a train traveling from California to Houston.

His close friend, retired NFL cornerback Lionel Washington, drove in from Louisiana to help.  “I was so surprised because I did not even know Bobby was sick,” Washington remembered.   “I told him, ‘I am taking you straight to the hospital.’”  They went straight to Baylor St Luke's Medical Center, home of the world-renowned Texas Heart Institute.

Dr. Andrew Civitello, Medical Director of the Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant Cardiology Program at Baylor College of Medicine, recalled how sick Bobby was:  "He had decompensated heart failure to the point of cardiogenic shock. His organs were failing and he could not breathe on his own and required the support of a ventilator.  His kidneys were failing and he was on temporary dialysis.”

The Baylor St. Luke's team exhausted every treatment option to stabilize Bobby. After two months in the intensive care unit, including nine days in a coma, Bobby was gaining strength, but his heart was still failing.   

Thankfully, there was still one more option to keep Bobby alive: a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), a mechanical device that takes over the pumping function of the left side of the heart. An  LVAD is surgically implanted and can prolong a patient's life and it can improve their overall health. Once Bobby’s LVAD was implanted, he no longer needed dialysis. 

“That’s why I’m alive right now - the pump and the care I got at Baylor St. Luke’s. They gave me the best care that they could. I mean, they saved my life,” he said.   The LVAD device requires an external battery and must be kept dry at all times. Still, Bobby is now back to walking twice a day and lifting weights.

Dr. Selby Oberton, his treating cardiologist at Baylor St. Luke’s, is following Bobby closely as he adjusts to the LVAD. “Bobby is getting stronger every day and he should be able to rely on the pump for years to come if need be.” Bobby remains under the care of Drs. Civitello, Oberton,  Nephrologist Pascale Khairallah. and Urologist Justin Badal, all at Baylor St. Luke’s.

True to their healing mission, the Baylor St. Luke’s team continued to go all out to save Bobby’s life,  even though he had no insurance. “Baylor St. Luke’s did a wonderful job,” longtime friend Randy Carodine said. “Despite the fact that Bobby had a problem with his insurance, they never wavered. They did a wonderful job.” Randy established a GoFundMe account that has so far raised close to $72,000 from 500 donors from around the country to help defray Bobby’s medical costs.

“I am so grateful for all the people who cared for me and about me and wanted to help,” Bobby said. “It was God’s work that they took me to Baylor St. Luke’s that day.”

 

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