Any pet owner will agree that our animals are just as much part of the family as people are. This is why we’d do just about anything to keep them healthy and happy. In fact, a Georgia nurse is taking her passion for helping others to the next level by collecting donated pacemakers from humans and using them to save the lives of pets.
Nurse Terri Matula has been saving dozens of animals with recycled human pacemakers.
Her inspiration began about 20 years ago when Terri and her husband were in college. Their cocker spaniel, Gator, suffered from an urgent third-degree heart blockage and the couple couldn’t afford the $3,000 pacemaker necessary to keep the pup alive.
For the past 17 years, Terri has been working as a cardiovascular nurse at the Navicent Health center in Macon, Georgia. She uses her hospital experience to help pets as well.
In 2017, Terri’s husband needed to upgrade his pacemaker and she asked if she could keep the old model to help animals in need.
“The similarities between how animals and humans are treated for certain diseases are very strong,” Terri said. “When I was studying to become a nurse 20 years ago, I learned that pacemakers for human beings could be utilized in dogs, as well.”
She hoped to donate the device to a veterinary college nearby.
“I asked his cardiology team if I could keep the pacemaker after they replaced it and then called the University of Georgia to find out if I could donate the device to the College of Veterinary Medicine,” she said.
After the pacemaker was successfully donated, Terri was inspired to collect more of the used devices for animals.
In 2018, Terri took things a step further and established the Pacemaker Donation Program between the university and Navicent Health.
“When a patient’s pacemaker is exchanged, upgraded or replaced, the patient is offered the option of donating their used device to the Pacemaker Donation Program,” said Beth Mann, vice president for cardiovascular services and nursing strategy at Navicent. “Everyone – our staff and our patients – has been excited to save the lives of animals with reusable devices.”
Since the program’s inception, 41 pacemakers have been donated to the university. Many of which have at least five years of battery life left, offering owners more time with their sick pets.
“This project demonstrates that with some creativity and a desire to share with others, solutions can be found,” said Gregg Rapaport, a veterinary cardiologist at UGA. “Each donated pacemaker that has benefited a person will now have benefited a dog, as well. The same resource will have positively impacted twice as many lives with no downside to anyone, and we can all feel good about that.”
h/t: Good News Network