PLEASANTON, Calif. and ANN ARBOR, Mich., March 19, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Thoratec Corporation (Nasdaq: THOR), a world leader in device-based mechanical circulatory support (MCS) therapies to save, support and restore failing hearts, and the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center, a leader in cardiac care, today announced a major milestone in the treatment of heart failure. Joe Ann Bivins, 68, of Detroit, Michigan, has been supported for the longest reported period of time on a single heart assist device. The device, the HeartMate II Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD), supplements her heart's pumping function and allows her to live her life virtually free from the symptoms of heart failure. (Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20130319/SF79560) Joe Ann was implanted in July 2005 at the University of Michigan, early in the HeartMate II pivotal clinical trial. Now at nearly eight years of support, Joe Ann exemplifies the life-improving benefits of LVAD therapy for heart failure. According to the American Heart Association, there are approximately 5.8 million individuals living with chronic heart failure in the United States, many of whom may face a similar decision to the one made by Joe Ann almost eight years ago. Joe Ann's heart had become too weak to adequately pump blood, leaving her tired and weak. Francis D. Pagani, M.D., Ph.D., Surgical Director of the Adult Heart Transplant Program and Director of the Center for Circulatory Support, told Joe Ann that her condition could improve with the help of an LVAD, the HeartMate II. Joe Ann elected to have the surgery, and she now describes her life as being as close to normal as she could imagine. Today, she sings with her church choir, attends bible study, heads the church usher board, and stays active and social with her sisters and son by her side. She also speaks with patients who are considering LVAD treatment for their heart failure condition, encouraging them to regain the life they once knew as well. The fact that Joe Ann is now the longest surviving patient with a heart assist device came as a surprise to her. Said Bivins: "I didn't even realize my journey was so significant. I was too busy living my life to the fullest. It's certainly something special to be given a second chance, and it's even more of a blessing to know that my story can give others with heart failure the same hope I have every day, which is to continue to be saved by my wonderful doctors and nurses, and my HeartMate II." Joe Ann's experience has been validated by clinical studies, in which HeartMate II has demonstrated significant improvements in quality of life as well as reductions in symptoms of heart failure. Joe Ann hopes her story will encourage people suffering from heart failure to know they have a choice and a path to a better life. " Joe Ann is truly a star patient, and her ability to continue to thrive is a testament to how well LVAD therapy works for patients in heart failure to alleviate their heart failure symptoms and give them back an improved quality of life," said Pagani. "We encourage people who are battling heart failure to speak with their doctors about treatment with an LVAD. Joe Ann is living proof that this therapy can turn lives around." HeartMate II is a heart pump called an LVAD, which helps the left side of the heart to circulate blood to the rest of the body. It is implanted alongside the heart and supplements the heart's pumping function. The HeartMate II system also includes accessories that are worn outside the body, including a controller and batteries that last more than ten hours, allowing patients to be active.