The waiting lists for organ transplants are notoriously long. Simply, there aren’t enough compatible organs to serve the much higher ratios of people in need of them. In the U.S., there’re over 121,000 on the waiting list, resulting in 22 people dying per day on average.
For anyone waiting for a crucial heart transplant, there may be hope in extending life until a donor heart becomes available.
This revolutionary new technology has kept Stan Larkin, now 25, alive for 17 months.
Oh, and that’s without an actual heart in his body.
Larkin was diagnosed with familial cardiomyopathy, a degenerative heart condition that slowly causes heart failure. He had his heart removed in 2014, becoming the first patient in Michigan to be fitted with the SynCardia Freedom Portable Driver.
It’s a 13.5-lb machine that uses compressed air to pump blood throughout the body, taking over for a dying heart’s duties. The difference between this machine and others that may seem similar is it can be used by patients with total heart failure. Apparatuses designed to assist with partial heart failure are no longer viable.
Larkin lugged the machine around in his backpack until he finally received his new heart in 2015. Larkin’s older brother also suffered from the same degenerative heart condition, and was sustained by the SynCardia Freedom Portable Driver like his sibling.
“They were both very, very ill when we first met them in our intensive care units,” said Jonathan Haft, University of Michigan associate professor of cardiac surgery. He performed both procedures on Larkin.
“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.”
Stan’s older brother finally got his heart in May 2016.
“It was an emotional rollercoaster,” he said at a news conference. “I got the transplant two weeks ago and I feel like I could take a jog as we speak. 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.”