Bella Vista teen is first pediatric patient in Arkansas to receive LVAD

BELLA VISTA, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A Bentonville high school student is the first pediatric patient in Arkansas to go home with a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) that helps her stay alive.

MacKenzie Maddry, 17, says it feels weird to be the first person in the state to go home with this new device but hopes she won’t be the last.

In 2020, Maddry was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer.

“We went through all that stuff and ended up needing a couple of leg surgeries,” she said.

Her mother, Dori, says she was devastated when she heard the news.

“That’s probably a parent’s worst nightmare. Hearing the words ‘your child has cancer,’” she said.

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According to Dori, Maddry told her she was in pain and they thought it was because she was injured from playing soccer or running cross country.

“It took us a little while before we got diagnosed, before she got diagnosed and ended up taking a couple different trips with different doctors,” Dori said.

They were eventually sent to Arkansas Children’s in Little Rock where she found out about the cancer.

Maddry underwent chemotherapy, but that treatment led to a cardiomyopathy diagnosis.

“It was a lot to deal with. Heart problems are a very big deal,” she said.

This led to end-stage heart failure.

“It was kind of hard to process. Like, one day you’re fine, and then the next day, you’re barely functioning,” Maddry said.

Maddry was stuck in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit for 114 days until she received the LVAD in Nov. 2022.

According to Baptist Health, the LVAD is for patients like Maddry who are ineligible to receive a heart transplant.

Maddry was ineligible because she had to be two years cancer-free and had to get another leg surgery to get put back on the heart transplant list.

She is now cancer-free and has been approved to be on the list after evaluation in December.

She will have to wait to be put back on the list after her next surgery.

The device is implanted into her chest, and she carries batteries and a controller in her bag.

“It shows pump speed, flow, PI, and if it’s charged or not,” Maddry said.

This device keeps her heart pumping.

“The LVAD really put me over the edge to where I could was a lot healthier. I could walk around, I could do stuff again. I wasn’t bedridden,” Maddry said.

Now she’s back home in Bella Vista with her friends and family and back in school.

“It’s so much of a difference between a hospital stay and home from a mental state. So, all LVAD has really helped in a lot of different ways,” Dori said.

She has to visit the hospital in Little Rock for appointments to make sure the LVAD is still doing its job and her heart is still functioning.

Maddry says the LVAD is a life-saving device and without it, doctors tell her that she wouldn’t have made it to her 17th birthday.

“I’m lucky that I had the option to have it. And for me, it was the right choice,” she said.

Dori says her friends, family and co-workers have been an amazing support system for Maddry.

Maddry says this journey has inspired her, now she wants to become a nurse.

“I’ve had a lot of amazing nurses, and I want to be that for someone someday and just make things better for other kids,” she said.

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