Story by: David Steen Martin on November 11, 2020
Bassel Alkhalil, M.D., was a medical resident and unsure what path to take in medicine when a dramatic case changed his life.
While he was training at a Baltimore hospital, an 18-year-old with heart failure and listed for a heart transplant needed to get to the hospital immediately because a donor heart had become available. This was 2005, and heart transplant recipients were notified by pager. The teenager was at the movies with friends and had turned off his pager.
Police were called to help track the patient down. They called out his name theater by theater, saying a donor heart was available. The audience cheered as the patient headed out. The teen received the donor’s heart, and his life was transformed.
When Dr. Alkhalil saw what a life-changing difference a heart failure cardiologist could make, he knew he had found his life’s work.
As a cardiologist with Norton Heart & Vascular Institute Advanced Heart Failure and Recovery Program and medical director of its growing mechanical circulatory support program, Dr. Alkhalil supports patients before and after left ventricular assist device (LVAD) surgery. The mechanical circulatory support program includes the use of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) for severe cardiac and/or respiratory failure.
“There is nothing more rewarding for me than treating a patient and they say, ‘I feel so much better now,’” Dr. Alkhalil said. “When someone’s family comes to me saying, ‘We couldn’t have done it without your help,’ I really feel good.”
Norton Heart & Vascular Institute is the leading provider of advanced heart failure care in Kentucky, Louisville and Southern Indiana. Our experienced physicians treat a full range of congestive heart failure stages.
For an appointment, call (502) 636-8266
Even though heart failure patients are often the sickest of the sick, there is a lot a heart failure specialist can do to improve their lives, according to Dr. Alkhalil. With the right care, the trajectory of their lives can be changed for the better, allowing them to live longer with a better quality of life. It’s important, however, for patients to get specialized help before their condition becomes too serious.
“There is a window of opportunity when heart failure patients tend to progress,” Dr. Alkhalil said.
For patients of the Norton Heart & Vascular Institute Advanced Heart Failure and Recovery Program, the initial step is to try to improve cardiac function with medication. According to Dr. Alkhalil, if that doesn’t deliver results and patients meet certain criteria, physicians at Norton Heart & Vascular Institute’s Heart Failure Clinic can talk to patients about an LVAD or a heart transplant.
Dr. Alkhalil joined Norton Heart & Vascular Institute’s Advanced Heart Failure and Recovery Program in 2020. He did his medical training and postdoctoral fellowship at Harbor Hospital and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. He then completed fellowships in advanced heart failure and cardiovascular diseases at the University of Louisville and was practicing in Louisville before joining Norton Heart & Vascular Institute. He said he chose Norton Healthcare because of the patient-centric team that is being built to treat advanced heart failure.
Originally from Syria, Dr. Alkhalil attended the University of Damascus School of Medicine. He completed his medical residency at Harbor Hospital, which is affiliated with Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland.
When he’s not working, Dr. Alkhalil enjoys spending time at home with his wife and three children.
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