A 24-year-old man survived 555 days without a heart with the help of a machine which he carried around in his backpack.
At the age of 16, Stan Larkin learned that his heart had a problem. It happened when he collapsed during a basketball game and then was later diagnosed with arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD). The condition causes his heart to beat abnormally, and also carries a risk of patients’ hearts suddenly stopping.
Distressed but optimistic, Larkin agreed to various procedures that would allow him to live – regardless of how weird they might seem. Doctors first inserted a defibrillator into his chest to regulate his heartbeat. Unfortunately, his condition worsened and eventually spread to both sides of his chest.
Then, in November 2014, Stan’s heart was removed completely – an undeniably disturbing yet awesome feat. How did he survive? Well, doctors hooked him 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.
But Larkin didn’t receive a heart right away, as hundreds of others were on the transplant list before him. To solve the conundrum but keep the young man alive, doctors outfitted him with a 13.5 SynCardia Freedom Portable Driver a month later. The device, invented by cardiac surgeon Dr. Jonathan Haft, is a portable machine that pumped Larkin’s blood for him.
He was discharged with orders to ‘take it easy’, which he didn’t exactly follow. Because Stan loves basketball, he ended up exchanging the device around 10 times to keep up with his body’s needs.
The good news is, the device kept Larkin alive until he received a heart – which happened recently! Now he can play basketball, give children piggy back rides, and live like a normal human without needing to lug a machine around with him.
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.”
For 555 days, he lived without a heart. But now, he has a healthy beating one which will hopefully serve him to the end of his days. Thanks to the magnificence of modern technology and innovative minds, Stan’s life was saved.
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