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LocalHeartless in Seattle

September 1, 2012

Christopher Marshall, 51, of Alaska, was implanted with a total artificial heart, an experimental portable driver system now being tested by the UW Medical Center


Photographer: MARK HARRISON / The Seattle Times

Call him heartless. Really! Meet 51-year old Christopher Marshall from Wasilla, Alaska. He had a bad heart, so in spring, 2012, he had an operation in Seattle. Doctors removed his real heart and gave him an artificial heart with a new, special, mobile driver. This driver makes his artificial heart beat. It will also allow him to leave the UW Medical Center while he waits for a human heart. He is the first heart patient in the Pacific Northwest to have this opportunity.

Artificial hearts keep sick people alive, but doctors must replace them with real human (donor) hearts. Often patients wait for months to get a donor heart. Most patients with artificial hearts are connected to a 418-pound driver about the size of a stove. It is called “Big Blue.” They have to wait for a donor heart in bed in the hospital.

In contrast, Marshall’s artificial heart gets power from the SynCardia Freedom driver. It weighs 13.5 pounds and looks like a backpack. It has a rechargeable battery. Marshall carries the driver around with him. It gives him freedom to live in an apartment, do everyday tasks, and take walks.

However, Marshall’s heart is very noisy, and he has to recharge the batteries every two hours. It is also expensive. His artificial heart, surgery, and hospitalization will cost about $250,000. Happily Marshall has good health insurance. And, the SynCardia driver is free because doctors are studying it for use with other heart patients.

To see a video of Christopher Marshall click here.

To see a photo of the large “Big Blue” driver and the small Freedom driver click here.

UPDATE: Christopher Marshall received a human heart on Wednesday, Sept. 12. He no longer needs to depend on his artificial heart and battery pack.

Developed by Tatyana Golendukhina and Alta (Altangerel) Jamsranjav

Published September 2012

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