It is a generally believed fact that without a heart, a person is as good as dead. However, the life of a 25-year old American man, Stan Larkin, is a proof that it is possible to live for more than one year while literally heartless.
Speaking of how the young man managed to stay alive without a heart for nearly one year and seven months before he received a new heart via transplant, it was revealed that he “wore”an artificial heart in a backpack for 555 day after his actual heart had been removed while he awaited a transplant donor.
Both Stan Larkin and his brother Dominique were diagnosed with familial cardiomyopathy as teenagers – a terrible condition where your heart can fail without warning. They were on the transplant list for many years, and eventually had their hearts removed by doctors who replaced it with an artificial hearts, a 13.5 pound backpack that connects directly to the cardiovascular system, pumping oxygenated blood throughout the body.
The artificial hearts, known as a SynCardia device, were fitted with both brothers who, doctors feared, were running out of time while on the transplant list. But while Dominique used the technology for a few short weeks before finding a donor, Stan had to wait more than a year.
Stan Larkin amazed doctors by being able to continue playing basketball, despite having a backpack the weight of nearly four Macbook Pros strapped to his back 24-hours a day. He finally received his donor heart in May this year, and has now fully recovered from the procedure.
“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.”
Jonathan Haft, Associate Professor of Cardiac Surgery at the University of Michigan, who carried out his surgery said:
“He really thrived on the device. This wasn’t made for pick-up basketball. Stan pushed the envelope with this technology.
“They were both very, very ill when we first met them in our intensive care units. 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.”
Stan’s younger brother, Dominique having been with a donor heart since January 2015, was able to o explain a little of what his brother must be going through, being without the backpack for the first time. “It’s been like having a new life. You can do everything you weren’t able to do and everything you thought you would probably never be able to do again”, he said. “You can live without the restrictions you had when you were sick and not have to worry about every little thing”.
For Stan, however, it’s one step at a time as he’s even staying off the basketball court for a little while.