Doctors say second artificial heart patient is walking with help, breathing without machine
By Associated Press, 12/12/01
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The second person to receive a self-contained artificial heart has begun walking with assistance and no longer requires a machine to breathe, his doctors said.
Tom Christerson's doctors said they were encouraged by his progress at Jewish Hospital, though he lags behind a pace set by Robert Tools, the first recipient of the AbioCor heart, developed by Danvers, Mass.-based Abiomed Inc.
After three months, Tools was taking trips outside the hospital. He died on Nov. 30 after almost five months with the plastic-and-titanium device in his chest.
Christerson, who has lived with the artificial heart for three months, was not quite as sick or weak as 58-year-old Tools at the time of surgery, Dr. Laman Gray said.
But Christerson's recovery has been slower because he is 70 and has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which progressively reduces how much air the lungs can hold, Gray told The Louisville Courier-Journal in Wednesday's editions.
Gray and Dr. Rob Dowling, both University of Louisville surgeons, implanted the AbioCor in Christerson, a former tire dealer, on Sept. 13. Four more implants have been done since then, in Houston, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. Three of those patients are recovering, but the most recent died of uncontrolled bleeding during the surgery.
Christerson had two episodes of high fever -- his temperature spiked to a dangerous 107 degrees on Nov. 2 -- which the doctors attributed to an unusual reaction to medication. He also required a ventilator until two to three weeks ago.
Christerson is breathing through a tube in his neck to prevent secretions or saliva from getting into his lungs when he swallows food. Gray said the problem will resolve as Christerson's neck muscles get stronger, and he could be moved out of the intensive care unit in the next two weeks.
"He is working really hard to get stronger and he is making progress," Gray said. "We're now, I think, over a hump."