Indiana’s 1st Use of the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart Helped Pat O’Hara Beat Genetic Heart Failure
O’Hara lost two siblings to genetic heart failure when he faced dying of the same condition. The SynCardia Heart implant bridged him to a matching donor heart transplant. Today, Pat is doing great.
TUCSON, Ariz. – Sept. 3, 2014 – With the help of the SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart, Patrick “Pat” O’Hara was bridged to a donor heart transplant and beat genetic heart failure that claimed the lives of two siblings and caused a third to have a heart attack.
O’Hara, from Claypool, Indiana, was told he had only three to four months to live when he was admitted in March 2013 to Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. He couldn’t breathe after any type of exertion. His voice was weak and his fingernails had turned blue. His heart, liver and kidneys began to fail.
Doctors determined he was too weak to receive a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) or to be put on the donor heart transplant waiting list.
O’Hara, 60, was facing a deadly outcome that had become all too familiar for his family. He suffered from idiopathic hypertrophic subaortic stenosis (IHSS), a genetic condition in which there is a thickening of the heart ventricle. This creates an enlarged heart muscle and restricts the amount of blood the ventricles can pump.
The disease had claimed a brother, who died at the age of 38; another brother survived a heart attack in January 2013, and his sister died of a heart attack in April 2013.
With O’Hara’s condition rapidly declining, IU Health Methodist cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. I-wen Wang, who specializes in heart and lung transplantation and heart devices, recommended the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart implant.
Like a heart transplant, the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart replaces the two diseased heart ventricles and four heart valves. It is the only approved device that eliminates the source of end-stage biventricular heart failure, a condition in which the two ventricles no longer can pump enough blood for the patient to survive.
O’Hara agreed to the implant surgery, driven by the desire to watch his toddler grandchildren grow up and to help other people with heart failure. O’Hara’s SynCardia Heart implant would be the first one performed in Indiana.
“You’re scared, but at the same time that’s what God wanted and I felt it was the right thing to do,” he says.
O’Hara received his SynCardia Total Artificial Heart on June 26, 2013. The SynCardia Heart pumps up to 9.5 liters of safe blood flow through each of the device’s two ventricles per minute—more than what the average human heart can pump.
“Right after the Total Artificial Heart implant, his fingernails had color,” recalls his daughter Kelly Miller. “The biggest change was the sound of his voice. Before the implant, it didn’t have the energy that it has now.”
The Total Artificial Heart also helps normalize the pressure of the blood returning to the heart (central venous pressure), which helps vital organs such as kidneys and the liver recover. This was the case with O’Hara.
O’Hara became the first Indiana resident to be discharged from the hospital without a human heart, thanks to the Freedom® portable driver, which powers the SynCardia Heart. O’Hara carried his 13.5-pound Freedom driver in a backpack. After 129 days of hospitalization, O’Hara was discharged to wait at home for his donor heart.
Back home, O’Hara spent time with his family, went fishing and danced at a Methodist Health Foundation banquet. The foundation helped pay for his medical expenses.
O’Hara received a donor heart transplant on November 27, 2013. Since his hospital discharge on December 23, he’s lived with his father—his mother died in November unrelated to IHSS—on 2.5 acres “with a cow, two goats and five chickens,” he says.
He puts his new-found energy to constant use. He works on Model T Fords and is remodeling the kitchen, along with doing daily work around the farm. “I’m kind of keeping pretty busy,” he says.
The SynCardia Total Artificial Heart and subsequent heart transplant eliminated O’Hara’s IHSS and gave him a second chance at life. "It is an amazing device,” he says.
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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 temporary 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