Brothers celebrate bridge to heart transplant

May 27, 2016  //  FOUND IN: UMHS News,

All transplant patients are exceptional, but Stan Larkin’s successful heart transplant comes after living more than a year with a total artificial heart device carried in a backpack.

He lived for 555 days with the SynCardia device, becoming the first patient to walk out of a Michigan hospital without a human heart. Now he has a real one.

The heart transplant performed by Jonathan Haft, M.D., associate professor of cardiac surgery, was a unique national triumph in efforts to replace the failing heart as heart disease grows and donor hearts remain scarce.

Dr. John Magee, chief of transplant surgery and Dr. Keith Aaronson, medical director of the Center for Circulatory Support, gave remarks Thursday during a news conference in the Cardiovascular Center's Danto Auditorium.

Dr. John Magee, chief of transplant surgery and Dr. Keith Aaronson, medical director of the Center for Circulatory Support, gave remarks Thursday during a news conference in the Cardiovascular Center’s Danto Auditorium.

“It was an emotional rollercoaster,” Stan Larkin said at a news conference when he described living with the total artificial heart that was implanted in November 2014 to keep him alive until a donor heart became available.

“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.”

Stan’s older brother Dominique also relied on a total artificial heart before a heart transplant in 2015. The brothers were diagnosed as teenagers with familial cardiomyopathy.

“They were both very, very ill when we first met them in our intensive care units,” Haft said. “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.”

The SynCardia temporary artificial heart is used when both sides of the heart fail, and more common heart-supporting devices are not adequate to keep patients alive. Doctors implanted the device in Stan in November 2014.

“He really thrived on the device,” Haft said looking at a photo of Stan on a basketball court. “This wasn’t made for pick-up basketball,” he joked.

“Stan pushed the envelope with this technology.”

As Haft teaches at the University of Michigan Medical School, the brothers have come along to share with medical students the impact that circulatory support can have on those with end-stage heart failure.

“You’re heroes to all of us,” says David Pinsky, M.D., a director of the U-M Frankel Cardiovascular Center. “The fact that you take your story public and allow us to teach others makes a difference.  You’ll make a difference for a lot of patients.  You’ll make a difference to the doctors of the future. We thank you for allowing us to share your story and your bravery in sharing it.”

This story was also featured on MLive – check it out: http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2016/05/larkin_brothers_heart_transpla.html.

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