Nebraska Medical Center Transplants
State's 1st SynCardia Total Artificial Heart Patient
42-Year-Old Greg Rathe Says, "I Feel Like I'm 16 Again," with New Donor Heart & Kidney
TUCSON, Ariz. – June 27, 2013 – For the second time this year, Greg Rathe's medical history has made state history. The 42-year-old father of two, who became Nebraska's first patient to receive the SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart in March, recently became the state's fifth patient to receive a dual heart/kidney transplant.
"I feel perfect. I feel like I'm 16 again," said Rathe, who received his dual transplant at The Nebraska Medical Center on May 17.
It was the second heart transplant for Rathe, who received his first donor heart in 1996 after a sudden onset of viral cardiomyopathy, a weakening of the heart muscle. After 17 years of life with his first transplant, his symptoms returned earlier this year when his body began to reject the donor heart. In March, Rathe's condition became critical when he lost consciousness and collapsed.
"We knew if we didn't move forward with the Total Artificial Heart, Greg would not survive," said John Um, MD, surgical director of cardiac transplantation and mechanical circulatory support at The Nebraska Medical Center.
To save Rathe's life, on March 14, Drs. Mike Moulton and Um performed the state's first implant of the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart. Two months later, Rathe received the news he'd been waiting for, that a matching donor heart and kidney had become available.
"I don't know why it's happened to me twice," said Rathe, who has a tattoo on his right forearm commemorating his first heart transplant. "But I feel extremely lucky."
Rathe says he plans to get two more tattoos in a year or so, one for the Total Artificial Heart implant and one for his second transplant. In the meantime, he began cardiac rehabilitation on June 24, and has a lot to look forward to.
"Smiling and laughing. Fishing, hunting, my son, my daughter," he said. "That's just about everything."
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.