A man was able to survive for more than a year without a heart. He even played sports with his friends during that time. How did he do it?
Stan Larkin was able to live with an “artificial heart” that was strapped to his back for 555 days while he waited for a transplant. His case has left medical professionals around the world in awe.
Stan, who was just 25 years old at the time, was diagnosed with familial cardiomyopathy – a type of heart failure that can strike without warning and kill people no matter how healthy they are.
Stan was unaware that he had the potentially fatal condition until one day when he suddenly collapsed while playing basketball.
The condition is also linked to sudden death among athletes and Stan’s brother Dominique suffers from it as well.
Stan desperately needed a new heart, which usually means you have to stay in the hospital to be monitored until an organ is available for transplant.
Instead, doctors at the University of Michigan installed a 13lb temporary total artificial heart (TAH) SyncArdia device while Stan waited for a donor.
A temporary total artificial heart is used when the heart fails on both sides. Unlike normal heart devices – which usually work with just one side of the heart – it works with both.
Stan’s TAH came in the form of a freedom portable driver which he wore in a backpack. The device allowed him to live a “normal” life and even play basketball with his friends.
Stan finally underwent a heart transplant in 2016. “It was an emotional rollercoaster. I got the transplant two weeks ago and I feel like I could take a jog as we speak,” he said at the time.
“I want to thank the donor who gave themselves for me. I’d like to meet their family one day. Hopefully they’d want to meet me,” he added.
Jonathan Haft, an associate professor of cardiac surgery, performed the surgery for Stan. “They (Stan and Dominique) were both very, very ill when we first met them in our intensive care units,” he said of the brothers.
“We wanted to get them heart transplants, but we didn’t think we had enough time. There’s just something about their unique anatomic situation where other technology wasn’t going to work.”
Dominique did not have a TAH. Instead, he stayed in the hospital for six weeks before he had a heart transplant.
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