ATLANTA - Jack Curry thought he’d never swim again.
“My life has been the water since second grade,” Curry told 11Alive. The avid swimmer’s passion indeed goes back decades.
Curry was a lifeguard in DeKalb County in his teens and later, an instructor with the Red Cross. The U.S. Marines even recruited him to help train troops, he said. Even in his 70’s, he was teaching others how to be safe in the water.
“Right before I had the LVAD, I was working LA Fitness teaching adults how to swim that didn’t have an opportunity to swim back in the 50’s…and I found that very, very rewarding,” Curry said.
So when the 72-year-old was told a left ventricular assist device, or LVAD, would save his life yet sacrifice his life’s passion, the news was heartbreaking. The LVAD’s electrical wiring and external pump meant no more swimming.
“I first said, let me die,” Curry said. "They think at the time they put the LVAD in, that I probably had maybe 12 to 24 hours left to live.”
Thinking about his kids and grandkids changed his mind, Curry said, the implant helping his struggling heart pump blood. But not being able to return to the water took its toll.
“Even though he had another chance at life, it wasn’t the same type of life he had before. He’s had to give up everything to do with water,” Betty Joe Curry said.
“I couldn’t teach my granddaughter how to swim,” Curry said. “Not being able to teach her how to swim really took a toll on me.”
Dr. David Dean, a cardiothoracic surgeon and surgical director at Piedmont Transplant Institute, recognized his patient struggling. The doctor teamed up with ScubaPro to develop a customized dry suit for Curry that would protect both him and the LVAD.
“Any time a patient gets news that their condition is going to keep them from being able to carry out their life’s plans, it can be deflating,” Dean told 11Alive. “We continue to push, innovate, investigate and evaluate opportunities for patients to return to a passionate, active and fulfilling life. We recognized an opportunity to give Mr. Curry part of his life back and didn’t hesitate to react. It’s always our mission to make a positive difference in every life we touch.”
ScubaPro not only donated the suit, their Regional District Manager Michael Paquette helped Curry test it in the water. Paquette said it’s the first time the company has worked on a specialized suit catered to the LVAD.
“We decided to donate the suit in the best interest of him getting in the world and his health,” Paquette said. “This is our first time that we've done something to this magnitude but as you saw in the world, he's unbelievably touched by this gesture we did."
For Curry, the suit offers new perspective, allowing him to also teach his granddaughter Josie.
“This is the third chance I have at life,” Curry said. “The first chance was being born, the second chance was my LVAD and now this is the fountain of youth, I’m sure of it."
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