Thanks to the latest development in the medical field, a heart transplant is now possible. However, for some people is not that easy.
Stan Larkin is the first man ever to live without a heart for around one and a half years. At 16 years old, when he was a teenager, Larkin collapsed on the basketball court. Later, he was diagnosed with arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia, known as ARVD, a dangerous heart disease that causes irregular heartbeats which might lead to a sudden cardiac arrest.
After living for a while with a defibrillator that helped him control the electrical signals of his vital organ, his disease progressed to bi-ventricular dysplasia, meaning that his heart was now unable of pumping blood out.
The 25-year-old father of three children understood that his best bet would be a heart transplant. Unfortunately, because of his so common O-positive blood type he had to wait ‘on the line’ for an extended period until a transplant was available for him.
According to Dr. Jonathan Haft, a cardiac surgeon at the University of Michigan Hospital, Larkin’s heart was already too weak and unable to pump enough blood to maintain his other vital organs healthy, so there was a high risk that he would eventually die waiting for his transplant. The U.S. Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network report that 22 people die every day waiting for a transplant.
Nevertheless, Haft thought that ‘Big Blue,’ a 418-pound machine, would buy Larkin enough time until a heart was available for him. Therefore, doctors removed his heart in November 2014 and hooked Larkin up to the artificial heart machine.
Fortunately, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved for a portable version of Big Blue, so Larkin was able to leave the hospital without a heart and with a new ‘backpack.’ The new portable artificial heart was called Freedom because it allowed Larkin to go everywhere he wanted as long as he carried it 24/7.
Therefore, he lived a normal life for 555 days until May 2016, when the doctors from the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center replaced his backpack with a real heart. Larkin confessed that he was so happy to be given this opportunity and that he was very grateful to be alive.