My name is Maria Ruzich and I am the owner/operator of a custom home furnishings design and fabrication studio, Custom Creations by Maria, located just outside of Atlanta, GA. Our clients consist of both residential and commercial accounts and due to the scope of the projects, I often have to draft my own patterns. My Uncle Jim Morelli received a Heartmate II device. While visiting him he asked if I could somehow help him manage the external equipment (batteries and controller). He received the Go Gear and while it keeps all the equipment securely in a bag, it was still difficult for him to get around because the eight plus pounds of equipment is always on one side or the other. He had an old vest that I was able to retro fit with pouches to hold the equipment which made it much easier to get around but while watching him I thought there had to be a better way.
One of his major concerns was the visibility of all the equipment. So the preliminary vest that I designed afforded him some much needed modesty by "hiding" the equipment inside the vest. My cousin Jim, who played a critical role in my uncle's rehabilitation had asked me to make additional modifications but it still wasn't quite right. So, we held a small brain storming session and asked my uncle what his wishes were as far as the vest and equipment were concerned. His primary issue was the imbalance of the equipment. The controller was placed on the side that the percutaneous lead came out of. By doing that, he was always weighted to that side. His final major concern was the fact that he might not be able to play golf again because his swing would be compromised by the imbalance that the equipment caused. So, based on his input and a remark that my cousin Jim made, I was able to design a vest in which all the pockets are concealed including the controller. I also developed a concealed underlayment in the front of the vest that is for the controller alone so that the weight is evenly distributed across the body. Other small modifications were made such as adding zippers for security and ease of use.
The final design was so well received by the folks at Hartford Hospital in Hartford, CT that they asked if I would make the vest available for other patients if they so desired. So, that is a brief overview of how the Ruzich LVAD vest came to be.
I'm happy to say that my uncle is back to doing everything he did before his surgery including playing golf. He is also thrilled with the fact that no one knows he has all this equipment on him.