How clinical trials helped one man live a better life

Published: Monday, May 6, 2024

It was Christmas Eve in 2012 when Tommy McClure, 47, had his first heart attack. Tommy was attending his local church’s Christmas Eve service in Habersham County when he suddenly started feeling lightheaded and dizzy.

“I remember fading out of consciousness and waking up to a young man asking if he could drive me to the hospital,” said Tommy. “I thought maybe I had a cold, but he was persistent. Later, I came to find out that this young man’s father had recently passed from cancer – and he wanted to make sure I would be okay.”

Tommy and his wife left the Christmas Eve service to go home, but Tommy ultimately decided to listen the young man’s advice.

“I was given an EKG scan to check my heart, and suddenly my room erupted in chaos,” said Tommy. “An entire team came rushing in. At that moment, I realized something was terribly wrong.”

Tommy was quickly rushed to the cardiac catheterization lab where he received a stent. Once stabilized, Tommy was scheduled for a coronary artery bypass graft, where the surgeons completed a three-vessel bypass.

“When I woke up from surgery, that’s when I realized my heart had actually stopped,” said Tommy.

Days later, Tommy was back home with his family. However, he would have several more heart attacks.

“A papercut is easy to take care of when you can see it on the outside of your body – but it’s easy to forget to take care of what’s on the inside,” said Tommy. “I fell into old habits. My heart was already weak, and it was getting weaker by the day.”

In 2019, Tommy suffered another major heart attack, rendering him hospital-bound for weeks at a time. For years, Tommy struggled to walk outside or breathe on his own without oxygen.

“My son is a nurse, and when he saw I was on a heart pump, his face went pale,” Tommy said. “He had to leave the room. He knew that heart pump was keeping me alive.”

But in 2022, Tommy’s care team approached him regarding a unique clinical trial. Tommy was given the opportunity to enroll in the RELIEVE-HF research study—a trial that studies a tiny, hourglass-shaped device called a V-Wave Interatrial Shunt which allows a small amount of blood to flow from the left atrium to the right atrium to lower pressure in the left side of the heart and lungs. The goal of the shunt is to help patients feel better and stay out of the hospital.

Because it was a randomized clinical study, the patient does not know whether they have received the device. After the study is completed, the patient is given the option to have the implant if they continue to meet the requirements of the study.

“My care team performed a miracle on me and keeps performing miracles,” said Tommy. “I’m able to breathe on my own, drive to church, and my relationships with my friends and family have only gotten stronger. Through this experience, I’ve come out a better man, husband, father and friend.”

Learn More about Clinical Trials

NGMC is currently offering a wide range of clinical trials. To see if one may be right for you, talk with your doctor to learn more about how you might qualify for a trial.