Charles Cummings likes to work in his garden and volunteer in a local veterans' organization.
But the 65-year-old retired Verizon worker from Pittsburgh, who now lives in Lakeland, hasn't been able to do much of anything lately because he has heart failure.
Sitting in a room at Tampa General Hospital, waiting to become the world's recipient of a new procedure that could help improve his life, Cummings talked about how difficult life has become.
"Thing that used to take me a half-hour, 45 minutes to do now takes me an hour-and-a-half, two hours, and by the time I'm done, I'm tired, I'm worn out, I need to take a rest," said Cummings.
TGH and University of South Florida doctors hope a new device will help lower Cummings' blood pressure and reduce the thickness of his heart muscle.
Shortly after talking to reporters, Cummings had surgery today as part of a clinical trial of the CVRx Rheos System, hospital officials said. The device - a little smaller than a thin wallet with wires leading to the carotid arteries - is designed to improve heart function and lower risk of death by monitoring and sending electrical signals to those arteries.
"It's our goal to demonstrate with the product that patients will live longer, they'll feel better and they'll be able to stay out of the hospital," said Dr. Robert Kieval, inventor of the CVRx Rheos System.
Kieval says Cummings is the first patient in the world to have the device implanted for heart failure. The same device has been used in a clinical trial with 300 patients to lower blood pressure, Kieval said.
The surgery took two hours, according to Dr. Murray Shames, the USF surgeon who placed the device in Cummings. Shames said there was an immediate 30 percent drop in Cumming's blood pressure when the device was activated.
Shames said he hopes over time, reduced blood pressure will also reduce the thickness in Cumming's heart.
Cummings will be at TGH for two days for recovery.
"I hope I'll be able to be more active again," said Cummings.
TGH is one of three Florida hospitals participating in the trial, called HOPE4HF. For information on the study, go to www.heartfailuretrial.com.