Alaska man with artificial heart gets transplant

By Associated PressSeptember 13, 2012 

Christopher Marshall of Wasilla was implanted with an artificial heart during a six-hour procedure in early February. On Wednesday, March 21, 2012, using a portable power supply for his circulatory device, he walked out of the University of Washington Medical Center with his wife, Kathy. They moved into a condo in Bothell while he waited for a donor heart.

MARK HARRISON / THE SEATTLE TIMES VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS

SEATTLE -- An Alaska man underwent a successful heart transplant after living for months with a battery-powered artificial heart while awaiting the surgery in Seattle.

Christopher Marshall of Wasilla is one of only a few patients who have been able to leave the University of Washington Medical Center using an artificial heart powered by a machine in a backpack, The Seattle Times reported Thursday.

Previous artificial-heart patients often had to wait a year or more in the hospital because the machine's driver weighed more than 400 pounds.

The battery driver that let Marshall leave the hospital is being tested on about 50 U.S. patients by SynCardia, its manufacturer.

Marshall, 51, took advantage of the device for several months by hiking and exploring, even if it meant toting spare batteries.

In February, surgeons had removed his deeply damaged heart, replacing it with a bulbous polyurethane heart tethered to the portable pneumatic machine. Marshall underwent the heart transplant in a seven-hour surgery Wednesday and as expected remained in the intensive care unit.

Marshall, who is married, was an avid hiker and outdoorsman while working for an oil company on the North Slope until last year, when his heart, weakened by idiopathic cardiomyopathy and ventricular tachycardia, deteriorated.

The first condition steadily destroys the heart muscle and the second produced a heartbeat often so fast and irregular that it required shocks from an implanted defibrillator.

After the artificial heart was implanted, Marshall and his wife had to stay in the area near the hospital in case they got a call about an available organ.

On Wednesday morning, Marshall was wheeled into an operating room, where Dr. Nahush Mokadam, the lead surgeon, Dr. Jason Smith, the assisting surgeon, and other team members began the work.

Outside the operating room, Kathy Marshall waited anxiously. She said her husband has always had an upbeat attitude, which doctors say is key for a successful transplant.

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