Australian Transplant Games Champion Leads SynCardia Cycling Team
in El Tour de Tucson
TUCSON, Ariz. – Nov. 23, 2005 – Heart transplant recipient Bill Wohl spent 159 days on the CardioWest™ temporary Total Artificial Heart (TAH-t) while awaiting the transplant of a donor heart in 1999-2000. Wohl is alive today, thanks in large part to this second heart, which served as a bridge between the one he was born with and the donor heart he has now.
Wohl, age 59, raced in Saturday’s 35-mile El Tour de Tucson cycling event and led the SynCardia Systems team, finishing in a time of 01:49:59 and placing 48th in a field of 921 riders. SynCardia Systems is the developer and manufacturer of the CardioWest™ TAH-t.
A Scottsdale resident, Wohl is already a veteran of Perimeter Bicycling Association of America events, having placed 8th overall at El Tour de Phoenix last April and placed 64th in the 35-mile El Tour de Tucson event last November.
As a bridge to transplantation, the CardioWest™ temporary Total Artificial Heart is making the critical difference for patients with end-stage congestive heart failure who are facing an increasing shortage of donor organs. Wohl received his CardioWest™ TAH-t at the University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center where Dr. Jack G. Copeland leads a pioneering cardiac surgery program. Eventually, while still on the CardioWest™ TAH-t, Wohl began visiting the hospital gym and built up his strength and endurance.
In February 2000, a young stuntman and actor, Brady Michaels, died after a brain injury. His heart went to Wohl. The transplant was a success. A week later, no longer connected to the large external pump that drove his now explanted artificial heart, Wohl left the hospital. Wohl continued his training and began to compete in athletic events.
In this year’s El Tour de Tucson, Wohl led a cycling team comprised of surgeons, cardiologists, registered nurses, city planners, SynCardia Systems employees and others. Prominent among this group were Dr. Copeland and Dr. Marvin J. Slepian, SynCardia Systems founder and board chairman.
Wohl competed in the 9th Australian Transplant Games last fall in Adelaide Australia. He competed and excelled in 10 cycling, swimming, and track events over a period of one week.
“This was right after the Athens Olympics where swimmer Michael Phelps won eight medals. Wohl said, “I thought, why not shoot for eight medals?” He won nine.
In one race, he took the gold medal competing against all ages and genders racing on the Edwardstown Velodrome cycling track in the five-kilometer time trial. Wohl set the Australian record in that event. Wohl has accepted invitations to compete in the U.S. Transplant games in June 2006, and later in the 2006 Canadian and 2006 U.K. Transplant Games.
Wohl appreciates the opportunity to share the El Tour de Tucson experience with his doctors and supporters. “It’s special for me to race with the doctors and the people who gave me the opportunity to get back to work,” he said. “CardioWest™ saved my life and I hope that there will be lots of other people who will have this second chance.”
Wohl proactively works with groups that promote education and research. He cites a lack of public knowledge about heart disease and organ donor issues. He is active with various teams and organizations, taking on speaking engagements and fund raising for charitable causes.
SynCardia Systems, Inc. in Tucson, Arizona is the privately-held owner and manufacturer of the world's first and only FDA, Health Canada and CE approved Total Artificial Heart for use as a bridge to transplant for people suffering from end-stage biventricular heart failure in which both ventricles can no longer pump enough blood for a person to survive.
More than 1,300 implants of the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart accounts for over 400 patient years of life on the device. Since January 2011 more than 400 SynCardia Hearts have been implanted.
The youngest patient to receive a SynCardia Heart was 9 years old; the oldest was 76 years old. The longest a patient has lived with a SynCardia Heart was nearly four years (1,374 days) before receiving a successful donor heart transplant Sept. 11, 2011.
SynCardia Systems also manufactures the Freedom® portable driver, which powers the SynCardia Heart while allowing clinically stable patients to leave the hospital to live at home and in their communities. The wearable Freedom driver has been used by more than 175 patients, accounting for over 100 years of support.