Tennessee Couple’s Nightmare Vacation
Turns into a Life-Saving Journey,
Thanks to the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart
Jack Jones Got His 2nd Chance at Life Because of the World’s First and Only
FDA, Health Canada and CE (Europe) Approved Total Artificial Heart
TUCSON, Ariz. – Jan. 28, 2014 – Even though Greenbrier, Tenn., residents Jack and Mary Jones were 685 miles from home and on vacation, they soon learned that they were in the right place at the right time.
The husband, a farmer, and the wife, an accountant, were in Williamsburg, Va., July 21, 2013, on the first night of a road trip to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. That night Jack felt so uncomfortable he couldn’t sleep. Over the last two years Jack had seen his regular doctor for a variety of complaints, including back, shoulder and chest pains, weakness, tiredness and night sweats. His physician told him he was fine and just getting older.
That July night, Mary drove Jack, 60, to a nearby hospital. Dropping him off at the emergency room (ER), Mary parked the car. Just as she was getting into the ER she was told that Jack had a heart attack and needed to immediately get to Sentara Heart Hospital 46 miles away. It floored her. “He went in walking and talking and he came out almost dead,” she recalls.
Jack’s regular doctor missed the signs of an earlier heart attack. With this second attack, Jack was suffering end-stage biventricular heart failure. Mary refused to be ushered into a waiting room as doctors at the hospital treated Jack with angioplasty and stents. An ambulance then rushed him to Sentara in Norfolk. The ambulance driver kept in close phone contact with Mary, who followed in her car, to assure her Jack was still alive.
Had the Joneses been at home, they would have had to drive at least two hours to get to a SynCardia Certified Center with cardiac surgeons specially trained to implant the SynCardia Heart. While there are 94 worldwide that are certified to implant the SynCardia Heart, none are in Tennessee.
Sentara’s highly trained heart specialists first implanted a biventricular assist device (biVAD) to keep blood pumping while they assessed Jack’s condition. It was clear his heart could no longer pump enough blood to sustain his life.
“They told me the heart muscle was gone,” Mary says. Only the SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart, as a bridge to transplant, could keep him alive and help get him into better condition for a donor heart transplant. She quickly agreed to the implant. “It was not a decision. It was the only choice I had. I know Jack wants to live.”
On July 24, while surgeons were preparing to implant the SynCardia Heart, Mary visited another SynCardia Heart patient in the hospital. “He was talking and laughing and eating,” Mary says. “It gave me hope where I wasn’t sure I had any more. I thought if I could get Jack to this point, I would be so happy.”
He spent his first days with a SynCardia Heart attached to a driver the size of a washing machine that powers the heart with preciously calibrated pulses of air and small amounts of vacuum. Later he was fitted with the Freedom® portable driver, a 13.5-pound wearable power supply that gave Jack much more mobility and independence.
With the ability to move about, Jack exercised two days a week at the hospital’s cardiac rehab facility. On his days off, he and Mary walked around the hospital, grounds, explored the outdoors and spent time playing with a therapy dog—also named Jack. “He was my little buddy,” Jack says.
Mary quit her job to remain at Jack’s side. They visited with staff and other patients and watched movies in his room, which they decorated for Halloween and Mary’s birthday. “It helped with the healing process with her being there,” says Jack.
Finally, the news they had been waiting for arrived: Jack would get his donor heart transplant. Jack the therapy dog sat on Jack’s lap as he rode in a wheelchair to the operating room. “Jack helped me stay calm and ready for my transplant,” he says.
“The Total Artificial Heart did everything the doctors said it would do,” says Mary. “And the Freedom driver let Jack do rehab before the transplant, so he did better with the transplant than he would have without the Freedom driver.”
“I have different priorities now,” says Jack. “I want to take some time to enjoy life.”
Jack left the hospital Dec. 13. Today he feels he’s improving every day. The couple plans to take the same trip they had started last summer. This time they’re calling it their celebration of life.
Jack Jones prepares to leave Sentara Heart Hospital following his heart transplant. Jones was implanted with The SynCardia Total Artificial Heart, the world’s only FDA, Health Canada and CE (Europe) approved Total Artificial Heart. It’s powered by the Freedom® portable driver, which is approved by Health Canada and CE and is awaiting FDA approval. The SynCardia Heart has a Humanitarian Use Designation as a bridge to transplant, but SynCardia is hopeful it will become available as a destination therapy this year.
CAUTION – The Freedom portable driver is an investigational device, limited by United States law to investigational use.
›› Read news coverage of Jack Jones’s journey from near death to health with the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart.
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.