Let’s Have a Heart to Heart
The body can do amazing things, but sometimes, it can’t do them alone.
Modern medicine and ongoing technical advancements are taking us to new peaks we’ve never reached before in human history, allowing people across the globe to live longer and healthier lives. Without the progress we’ve made thus far, many of us today would be already suffering from maladies, illnesses, and conditions we’ve long since cured.
Stories about medical miracles are all special, unique, and uplifting, but one such story coming from the University of Michigan is especially noteworthy for one simple reason: a 25-year-old man lived for 555 days without a heart.
And he didn’t just live: he was a father to his daughters, a brother and son to his family, and an avid basketball player. For somebody so heartless, this challenging lifestyle sure took a lot of heart.
Here’s his heartwarming story.
Meet Stan Larkin
Both Stan Larkin and his brother Dominique were diagnosed with a dangerous heart condition, familial cardiomyopathy, when they were teenagers. When it goes untreated or unnoticed, it can easily lead to heart failure and death without any warning, especially among athletes. Both boys were placed on the donor list in order to receive new organs, but in the meantime, they had to use artificial hearts.
“They were both very, very ill when we first met them in our intensive care units,” said the surgeon Jonathan Haft of the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Centre. “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.”
Dominique received his transplant shortly after getting put on the device, but Stan had to wait an amazing 555 days without a heart inside his body. Instead, he carried it around in his backpack.
Though it sounds unbelievable, Stan used a SynCardia total artificial heart, which he carried around inside a Freedom portable driver in order to have total mobility and live a normal life. In fact, if you met Stan, you wouldn’t even think anything was the matter, except for the fact that he carried a suspicious, 13.5-pound backpack with him at all times, including while he played pickup basketball.
Dr. Haft later said “He really thrived on this device […] This thing wasn’t built for pick-up basketball. He pushed the envelope–at least as far as this company’s intentions were–with this technology.” Other doctors involved cited how brave Stan and his brother were for using the technology and sharing their story to serve as an example for other patients.