Total Artificial Heart Patient Receives Donor Heart
15 Years after Decision to Donate Wife's Organs
47-Year-Old Father of One Waited for Matching Donor Heart at Home for 3 Months Using Freedom® Portable Driver
TUCSON, Ariz. – Feb. 15, 2012 – Gregory Welsh, 47, is a compelling example of the life-changing importance of organ donation. Following a car accident in 1996, he made the decision to donate his wife's organs in hopes of helping others. Fifteen years later, Mr. Welsh's gift came full circle when he received a donor heart transplant after 120 days of life with the SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart.
"It's a miracle I got this heart and I'm going to do everything I can to take care of it," said Mr. Welsh. "I got a second chance and that means something to me."
On Jan. 14, 2011, Mr. Welsh went to his local urgent care center with flu-like symptoms. Medical staff discovered he had arrhythmias and a resting heart rate of 190. He was immediately taken to the nearest emergency room by ambulance, but 15 minutes after his arrival, Mr. Welsh went into cardiac arrest.
"I woke up 10 days later with a SynCardia Total Artificial Heart," said Mr. Welsh. "Doctors told me I'd had a major blockage in all four of my heart chambers and had suffered a heart attack. Only about 20 percent of my heart was working."
After a month of recovery from his implant surgery, Mr. Welsh's doctors offered him the opportunity to switch from the 418-pound "Big Blue" hospital driver that powered his Total Artificial Heart to the 13.5-pound Freedom® portable driver. This smaller, wearable power supply, which is currently undergoing an FDA clinical study, allowed him to be discharged from the hospital to wait for a matching donor heart at home on Feb. 18, 2011.
"Life at home was really very good," said Mr. Welsh. "My 24-year-old daughter Cassandra was instrumental in helping me. She did all of my dressing changes when I came home, twice a day at first, while at the same time completing her master's to become a teacher. Today, she's teaching 5th grade. I'm her only surviving parent because her mom was killed in a car accident 15 years ago. I made the choice to donate her mother's organs, so I've seen both sides of the donor network now."
After three months of life at home with the Freedom driver, Mr. Welsh received his matching donor heart on May 18, 2011.
"When they told me a donor heart was available, I was really happy but also scared at the same time," said Mr. Welsh. "At one point, they started talking to me about the anti-rejection medications and how your immune system can be compromised. I thought, do I really want to do this? If the driver was a little smaller and less noisy, I could live with this thing. That's how comfortable I got with the Total Artificial Heart."
Today, Mr. Welsh says he is "addicted to the gym" and often walks 2 to 4 miles a day. He has also returned to work part-time as a computer-aided drafter for a local engineering firm and hopes to return full-time very soon.
"My life so far post-transplant has been wonderful," said Mr. Welsh. "What the Total Artificial Heart does is amazing. It will keep you alive, make you feel better and allow you to build strength for your transplant."
To learn more about becoming an organ donor, please visit http://www.organdonor.gov
CAUTION – The Freedom® portable driver is an investigational device, limited by United States law to investigational use.
About SynCardia Systems, LLC
SynCardia Systems, LLC in Tucson, Ariz., is the privately-held manufacturer of the world's first and only FDA, Health Canada and CE approved Total Artificial Heart. For people suffering from end-stage heart failure affecting both sides of the heart (biventricular failure), the SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart is used as a bridge to transplant, helping them survive until a matching donor heart becomes available. SynCardia also manufactures the Freedom® portable driver, which powers the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart and allows clinically stable patients to be discharged from the hospital to enjoy life at home while they wait for a heart transplant.
Janelle Drumwright, firstname.lastname@example.org, (520) 547-7463