Former world softball champion Darrell Goodwin, 79, is a disciplined lifelong athlete. So when he started experiencing shortness of breath he knew he needed a check-up.

Darrell went to see his cardiologist, who had fitted him with a pacemaker years earlier. From there he was referred to the Providence Center for Advanced Heart Disease, where tests revealed a serious problem. “My left ventricle was not pumping blood the way it should,” he says. “If I didn’t do something soon, it could be fatal.”

Jacob Abraham, M.D., medical director for the center, recommended that Darrell receive a left ventricular assist device, or LVAD, a mechanical pump implanted in the chest to help a weakened heart. The LVAD doesn’t replace the heart, it just helps it do its job. “We’re making enormous progress with these devices,” says Dr. Abraham. “We have far more people who could use a heart transplant than we have hearts available. LVADs help to close that gap.”

Darrell received his LVAD in September 2015 and, with strong support from his family and Dr. Abraham’s team, was back on the softball diamond the next spring. “We don’t talk enough about what seniors can do in sports,” he says. “Not just baseball but all kinds of sports — everything.”

Donor support has been critical to developing the Center for Advanced Heart Disease. You can learn more about the center and Dr. Abraham’s plans to provide even stronger support to patients like Darrell at a celebration of VAD recipients. Join us 5 – 7 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 16 at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center. To learn more, email welovethat@providence.org.