In recent decades, industrialized nations have seen a drop in deaths from heart attacks and strokes, but those in low- and middle-income nations continue to experience an epidemic of cardiovascular disease.
For instance, in South America and Central America, the parasitic infection Chagas disease can disrupt connections in the heart. Chagas can affect 20 million people, and a study revealed that 72 percent pacemaker recipients in Brazil had been infected at some point in their lives.
Growing evidence and support laid the groundwork for Project My HeartYour Heart, a collaborative between citizens, physicians and funeral directors of Michigan, the U-M Cardiovascular Center and World Medical Relief, Inc., a Detroit-based non-profit organization that specializes in the delivery of used medical equipment.
Pacemakers removed before burial or cremations are rarely returned to the manufacturer and instead are stored at funeral homes with no apparent use. In a U-M survey of Michigan funeral home directors 89 percent said they were willing to donate devices to charitable organizations if given the opportunity.
A model program
According to study authors, after families consent, donated devices will be sent by the funeral home in a free postage-paid envelope to the U-M for assessment of battery longevity. Funeral directors can request packages from U-M.
If the device has a battery life greater than 70 percent, it will be sterilized and old patient information will be erased, with the ultimate goal of allocating devices to institutions throughout the world with assistance from WMR."Of primary concern when discussing reuse of devices is the possibility of infection," says lead author Timir Baman, M.D., a U-M cardiol
|Contact: Shantell M. Kirkendoll|
University of Michigan Health System