Heartless Life

Heartless Life

While waiting for a human heart transplant, Stan Larkin lived 555 days with an artificial heart in his backpack.

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Imagine having no pulse and a foreign apparatus inside your body acting as one of your main organs: the heart. Stan Larkin knows how this feels. For more than a year, the 25-year-old had to carry around a gray backpack, which held a 13-pound artificial heart known as the Freedom Driver. It was keeping him alive. Two tubes beneath Larkin’s rib cage connected the artificial heart to the power source in the backpack.

Larkin began having trouble nine years ago when he suddenly collapsed on the basketball court while playing a game of pickup. He was born with cardiomyopathy, a life-threatening genetic disease that causes the heart muscle to become enlarged. As time progresses, if the illness goes untreated, the heart loses its ability to pump blood through the body and maintain a normal heartbeat.

That can lead to heart failure or arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats).
Larkin’s real heart was removed from his body in November 2014. He received a heart transplant on May 9 at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center, making history as the first patient in Michigan to test the new medical equipment before his surgery.

His younger brother, Dominique, also had the disease. Both brothers functioned with the artificial heart, but Stan Larkin was able to function for much longer than his brother, who was hospitalized for six weeks with the device before receiving a human heart. Dr. Jonathan Haft, a cardiac surgeon at the University of Michigan, operated on both brothers. Now, Stan Larkin is recovering from his procedure.

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