Man Lives 555 Days Without a Heart

Man Lives 555 Days Without a Heart
Science & Medicine

A 25-year-old man lived 555 days without a heart by carrying around a machine to keep his body going in a backpack. The young man has since received a heart transplant and has been able to ditch his 13.5-pound portable device.

Stan Larkin has had heart problems ever since the age of 16 when he collapsed during a basketball game. The then teenager was diagnosed with arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD), which causes the heart to beat abnormally and carries a risk of patients’ hearts suddenly stopping.

In order to regulate his heartbeat, doctors inserted a defibrillator into his chest. However, despite the defibrillator, his conditioned worsened and spread to both sides of his chest.

In November 2014, his heart was removed entirely. He was hooked up to a 418-pound machine in the hospital that keeps heart failure patients alive, with or without a heart, while they wait for a transplant.

In the meantime, Larkin was put on the list for a heart transplant. Being behind hundreds of others, doctors knew Larkin couldn’t survive without the machine, which left him bedridden, until his name came up.

In order to allow Larkin to live a somewhat normal life, Dr. Jonathan Haft, his cardiac surgeon, gave him a 13.5 SynCardia Freedom Portable Driver in December of 2014, a portable machine that pumped Larkin’s blood for him. And though Larkin was supposed to take it easy, doctors say he had to exchange the device around 10 times because he continued to play pick-up basketball while using it.

Although the device allowed Larkin to live a somewhat normal life, he couldn’t pick up his children or give them piggy back rides, something he is incredibly grateful he can do now that he’s had his transplant.

Now, life is looking up for the 25-year-old, who was the first person in Michigan to benefit from the SynCardia Freedom Portable Driver. His body seems to be accepting the transplant and he is adjusting well to life without the device.

He told CNET:

“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.”