Portable artificial heart gives new life to those waiting for a transplant

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There’s new hope for a better life for heart patients in Indiana thanks to the next generation of artificial hearts.

The new type of artificial heart provides a bridge for patients until they get a heart transplant. For one Hoosier, it means more independence while he fights his disease.

“Actually, I’ve been having problems since I was 32 or 33 and it just kept getting gradually worse,” said Pat O’Hara.

O’Hara has been battling heart disease for almost 30 years. Without a new heart, it’s a battle he’ll eventually lose.

The former delivery man from North Manchester has new hope thanks to the next generation of artificial heart technology available at IU Health Methodist Hospital.

O’Hara has become the first patient in Indiana to receive the Syncardia Total Artificial Heart.

It’s an artificial heart and portable pump that doctors say can keep patients active outside the hospital without having to be connected to an older washing machine-sized pump in the hospital room.

This technology will provide O’Hara with a bridge until he can get a heart transplant.

“At the time, when we were evaluating Mr. O’Hara, he was very sick and we didn’t think he would tolerate an operation like a heart transplant successfully,” said Dr. I-wen Wang

Since O’Hara has had the new device implanted, his family as already noticed a difference in not only how he feels but how he looks with a strong pulse.

“Our biggest thing that we noticed was the blue fingernails, they weren’t blue anymore, that he was definitely getting the circulation through there,” said Kelly Miller.

Other artificial hearts have been transplanted in Indiana. The first one was in 1987 but this is the first time for this particular device which gives patients a new sense of freedom and independence.

“We do everything we can from a medical and a surgical standpoint, a large part of the success comes from his own personal character and the strength to succeed if you will,” said Dr. Wang.

O’Hara hopes to be released from IU Health Methodist Hospital with his new portable pump in the next few weeks.