Patient with heart failure makes miraculous recovery


In this article:

  • In 2021, young mom Hillary Steffen started experiencing heart failure and was close to needing a heart transplant.

  • Instead, doctors at Providence St. Vincent installed a powerful pump to perform her heart’s work and let it rest.

  • Now, Hillary is well on her way to a full recovery.

For some people, heart failure is a gradual process over several years. But in young mom Hillary Steffen’s case, she lost much of her heart’s function in just a couple of days late in 2021. Thankfully, she received the right care at the right time from the heart experts at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Portland, Oregon.

An inspiring story

Hillary told her story recently at the Providence Heart Institute’s Black & White Ball, which benefits the Institute’s Center for Cardiovascular Analytics, Research, and Data Science (CARDS). CARDS aims to harness the power of big data to make heart care better, more affordable, and more equitable.

Watch Hillary’s story.

Life-saving heart pump

The solution, it turned out, was installing a pump into Hillary’s heart. Quickly after she arrived at the hospital, Providence St. Vincent’s entire team of heart failure cardiologists, surgeons and interventional cardiologists decided she needed to undergo invasive surgery so they could place a powerful pump in her heart. They needed her heart to rest and recover.

“If my heart didn’t recover with the heart pump,” Hillary said, “then I would need a heart transplant. I didn’t really let my mind go there, because my initial thought was that somebody else was going to have to die for me to live. I didn’t want to think about that.”

The importance of research

The Black & White Ball focused on raising money for research, which was why Hillary’s story was important. “I’m so grateful that I was near a hospital that is focused on heart recovery,” she said. “I would not be alive without the research they have done.”

“We’ve gained a lot of experience with these temporary mechanical devices,” added Jacob Abraham, MD, a cardiologist with the Providence Heart Institute and the division chief of Advanced Heart Failure. “Given our expertise in heart failure management, we’ve been able to allow patients to have that additional time. We’re fortunate to be treating patients and pushing the boundaries of medical knowledge at an institution like this.”

The pump did its job, and Hillary was able to recover without needing a transplant. She is slowly returning to normal life with her three young children.

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Related resources

Heart care for life: Brian’s congenital heart disease journey

5 not-so-obvious signs that you may have a heart problem

Heart disease affects women differently


This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

About the Author

The Providence Heart & Vascular Team is committed to bringing you many years of expertise and experience to help you understand how to prevent, treat and recover from cardiovascular diseases and conditions. From tips to eating better to exercise and everything in between, our clinical experts know how to help you help your heart.

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