Exceptional Patient—Allen Elmore


Allen Elmore worried about the possibility of having a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) implanted into his heart, but when the 62-year-old New Mexico man suffered a heart attack, he was left with few options.

Elmore came to University of Utah Hospital in May 2013, where he underwent an LVAD procedure by cardiothoracic surgeon Craig Selzman, MD. During his stay in the hospital, Elmore, an accomplished blues musician, serenaded other patients with his harmonica as he recovered.

“It was definitely good lung exercise,” Selzman said. “And it was something that put a smile on everyone’s face. When he played and sang, it positively altered the mood in the unit and helped in everyone’s recovery, including his own.”

Elmore grew up on Chicago’s west side where his father owned a tavern. He loved listening to the blues and found inspiration to pick up the harmonica in the 1950s after seeing acts like Muddy Waters come through town and perform at his father’s place.

“These guys played there when I was a little kid,” he said. “We didn’t have air conditioning, so when we’d be outside, we’d hear the fan blowing and with it would be Muddy and the rest of these guys. That’s all I heard growing up so playing the blues really came to me naturally.”

Elmore now resides in Albuquerque, where he plays in several bands, including a quartet called Cornbread Blues (see video).

During his stay at University of Utah Hospital, Elmore said sharing his music with other patients helped with his own healing. A chance to continue performing despite being confined in a hospital was a gift that motivated him to keep going each day during his recovery, he said.

“Whenever I play for anybody and they tell me it made their day, that’s something that’s really special,” he said. “My health is always on my mind, but whenever I start to feel that anxiety, I play music, or turn the music on and it always makes me feel better.”

Elmore eventually moved to a local hotel after being discharged from University of Utah Hospital so he could continue with follow-up visits for several months after his surgery. Doctors cleared him to return home to New Mexico in July 2013.

Elmore praised Selzman and his staff for helping him to get his life back and for renewed opportunities to pursue his passions. “They’re the greatest,” Elmore said of his University of Utah Health team. “I’ve never been in a hospital that was so caring. Anything you need, they take care of it, no questions asked. The nursing staff and doctors are great. It’s just been excellent.”

Elmore continues to occasionally visit Salt Lake City for follow-up visits with the cardiovascular team. On a recent visit, he had his harmonica in his back pocket and speculated about passing through with Cornbread Blues for more performances.

“I’m pretty glad I came to see you guys,” Elmore told Selzman and his staff. “And don’t you worry, I’ll be back here playing again real soon.”

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