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Former Anderson University professor receives heart assisting device

Jan. 18—ANDERSON — John "Jack" Fulda knew something was wrong when he nearly fainted while getting out of his chair at his home in Anderson.

He was later diagnosed with congestive heart failure, a condition in which the heart can no longer pump the amount of blood the body needs.

He needed a little help. Otherwise, he would've had about four months to live.

This prompted Fulda to explore potential options, including a left ventricular assisting device, which helps the heart pump blood.

At least two doctors told him he would not be a good candidate. To him, such words could have been, "Go home and die."

"I was pretty angry. They (those doctors) were very judgmental," Fulda said.

They later found a doctor willing to perform the surgery, which occurred in late December 2023 at Ascension St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis.

The doctors opened Fulda's chest cavity, and a pump was inserted into the tip of the heart. The pump has two attachments. One is a tube that carries blood to the aorta, and the other is a cord connecting the pump an external controller.

The device, though a temporary fix, has given Fulda a new lease on life.

Unfortunately, that lease is currently on hold.

Shortly after surgery, Fulda started feeling poorly again. However, this time, it wasn't heart failure but a virus, resulting in sepsis.

Sepsis is a condition in which the body fights against its own organs instead of an infection. The condition could lead to organ damage.

The situation turned for the worst and Fulda was put on a ventilator.

Before long, he was moved into a regular room from the intensive care unit. That's when Fulda contracted pneumonia. He was returned to intensive care.

During that time a doctor told his wife, Mary, also known as "Cathy," she might need to pull the plug. However, the doctor in charge of Fulda's care stepped in and recommended John be kept alive.

"He's a fighter," Cathy remembered the doctor saying.

Fulda quickly improved. Fulda's body was able to fight the pneumonia.

"God wasn't finished with you yet," Cathy said to him in a common area of Bridgestone Healthcare in Carmel, where Fulda currently resides.

The former Anderson University professor is re-learning to walk as a result of being virtually immobile since late June.

He attends therapy several days a week. Tuesday morning, he and his physical therapist, Paul, took a walk down a small hallway.

Such progress, Cathy said, is huge.

Fulda doted on his wife, saying she's been there with him through it all, from quitting her job to help Fulda start a home detention ankle bracelet company, to his current health situation.

"She's my soulmate," he said.

Fulda is anxious to get home because he has work to do. Fulda said he wants to spend his remaining years helping others.

Tuesday afternoon, he talked about helping one of his caregivers continue her education. The caregiver wants to be a nurse but cannot afford it. Fulda thought he and Cathy might be able to help.

They may also start a foundation to carry on Fulda's mission long after he passes.

In the meantime, Fulda plans to travel and share his story with others.

Follow Caleb Amick on Twitter @AmickCaleb. Contact him at caleb.amick@heraldbulletin.com or 765-648-4254.