Man survives 18 months with artificial heart in backpack while awaiting transplant (VIDEO)
In 2014 Stan Larkin became the first patient in the state to be discharged from hospital with a SynCardia - a temporary and external artificial heart which pumps blood around the body.
The device is used when both sides of the heart fail and more common heart-supporting devices are not enough to keep patients alive, according to the University of Michigan Health System.
Larkin’s brother Dominique also benefitted from a similar device for a few weeks while he awaited a transplant but, as Stan had more than a year to wait, he was fitted with the driver so he could go home before his transplant surgery.
As teenagers, both brothers were diagnosed with familial cardiomyopathy, a genetic type of heart disease that can strike seemingly healthy people without warning, causing cardiac failure. An estimated 750,000 people in the US suffer from dilated cardiomyopathy and roughly half of these cases are familial.
University of Michigan cardiovascular surgeon Jonathan Haft said both men were very ill when they were admitted to intensive care and that staff decided the device would be the best option to bridge the period before their transplants.
"We wanted to get them heart transplants, but we didn't think we had enough time,” Haft said. “There's just something about their unique anatomic situation where other technology wasn't going to work."
Haft explained that Stan Larkin thrived on the device and really tested its limits by continuing to play basketball while hooked up to the backpack.
Larkin described the whole experience as an “emotional rollercoaster”. Two weeks after his transplant, he said he felt “like I could take a jog”.
“I want to thank the donor who gave themselves for me. I'd like to meet their family one day,” he said. “Hopefully they'd want to meet me."
A number of SynCardia Freedom Portable Driver’s were recalled in 2015 after the FDA warned that a specific part of the Freedom Driver drive mechanism may fail and cause the device to stop pumping.
SynCardia issued a statement saying the “malfunction was caused by an unauthorized rework of a component by a supplier” and replaced the affected units within a week.
"The patient in the incident that prompted the recall briefly lost consciousness when his primary unit alarmed and stopped pumping, but quickly regained consciousness when his caregiver switched the patient to his backup Freedom® driver. He received his replacement Freedom® drivers and is doing well with no permanent injury,"said Michael Garippa, SynCardia CEO and President."No other incidents were reported."