This man was not a zombie nor the tin man from the Wizard of Oz but rather the first recipient of a portable heart, thanks to innovative technology from the University of Michigan.
The 24 year-old Stan Larkin, became the first person to leave the hospital with an artificial heart. When he was still 14 years old, he was diagnosed with arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia which is a serious heart condition that can cause sudden cardiac arrest.The teen was in desperate need of a heart transplant, but as you can imagine, working human hearts are hard to come by. This year his condition deteriorated and doctors needed to remove the young man’s most vital organ. Unfortunately, no heart was available for transplantation, so Stan was hooked up to “Big Blue,” a 418-pound device, around the same size and stature of a washing machine, in order to deliver oxygen to his organs.
In November of last year, Stan truly got the opportunity of a lifetime. He was offered a chance to try out the world’s first portable heart, the SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart. The device is attached to an external compressor through two tubes connected to the young man’s chest.
The Freedom Driver, a portable 13-pound device designed to help patients at risk of dying from end-stage biventricular heart failure. This device does the same thing as “Big Blue” which delivers compressed air – except that it is portable.
Thus, this man’s heart is inside a backpack.
Being the first to leave a Michigan hospital without a human hear, he was also part of a unique group of heart patients in the United States who’ve gained independence because of the mobile technology.
The device Stan has is the SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart, a mechanical pump to bridge him to transplantation. He’s still listed for a heart transplant and we hope to transplant him as soon as an organ is available. In the meantime he can be at home, he can be functional, and continue to rehabilitate himself so he’s in the best possible shape when his opportunity comes ,” says University of Michigan cardiac surgeon Jonathan Haft, M.D.
With the total artificial heart there are two tubes that exit the body, and those tubes have to be connected to a machine that can deliver compressed air into the ventricles to allow blood to be pumped through the body.
It was a stressful situation. After I got it, I felt so much better. I felt like before I had any heart problems. I felt like I could do anything,” Stan stated.
Now, Stan will no longer need to stay in the hospital’s intensive care unit as he waits for an available heart transplant. He is free to move, wearing the portable artificial heart on his back like a backpack.