Man Without Human Heart Hikes More Than 400 Miles
Hiking up to six miles every day isn't for the faint of heart. Luckily for Chris Marshall, he doesn't have one. Marshall, the first SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart patient in the Pacific Northwest to leave the hospital using the Freedom® portable driver, has logged more than 400 miles of hiking since being discharged from University of Washington Medical Center on March 29.
"I've walked just about 437 miles since I was discharged," said Marshall. "I feel so much better with the Total Artificial Heart than I was feeling before. My color is greatly improved, my vitality is going up. With the Total Artificial Heart and the Freedom driver, I really get to go out and live life."
In 1999, Marshall was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a disease that destroys the heart muscle over time, and ventricular tachycardia, an irregular, fast heartbeat. Although his implanted defibrillator shocked his heart 30 times over a 12-year span, Marshall never let his heart condition slow him down.
"I actually did very well with a low heart ejection fraction for many years," said Marshall. "My doctors did a really good job of managing me medically. I was doing a lot of hiking - 3 to 5 miles a day - with an ejection fraction around 20 percent. A healthy ejection fraction is around 50 to 70 percent. It was only this past fall that I started getting shortness of breath on level ground, which had never happened before."
On Jan. 23, Marshall and his wife Kathy traveled from their home in Wasilla, Alaska, to Seattle for what was supposed to be a one-day heart evaluation. However, doctors discovered his heart was functioning at less than 10 percent, and didn't think he would survive the flight home.
"I was walking 20 laps a day in the hospital hallways at a very fast clip," said Marshall. "So when my surgeon told me that he wanted to replace my heart with the Total Artificial Heart, it seemed kind of drastic."
Marshall's surgeon, Dr. Nahush Mokadam, wanted to do the surgery on Feb. 6. As the date approached, it was up to Marshall to decide whether to proceed with implanting the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart.
"On Feb. 5, I ended up having ventricular tachycardia after walking my sixth lap around the hospital floor," said Marshall. "I lost consciousness and when I woke up, I was lying on the floor with the IV pole next to me. After that, everyone agreed that the Total Artificial Heart wasn't a bad idea.
"I told them yes, let's go ahead with it."
Marshall was implanted with the Total Artificial Heart during a six-hour procedure on Feb. 6. Seven weeks later, on March 21, he was discharged from University of Washington Medical Center using the Freedom portable driver to power his Total Artificial Heart. Since his discharge, Marshall has enjoyed hiking in the Seattle area with his wife Kathy and his golden retriever Gracie.
Weighing 13.5 pounds, the Freedom portable driver is the world's first wearable power supply for the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart. The Freedom driver is CE approved for use in Europe and undergoing an FDA-approved Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) clinical study in the U.S.
CAUTION – The Freedom portable driver is an investigational device, limited by United States law to investigational use.