Bridge to Transplant & Beyond: Drew Weaver
Bridge to Transplant and Beyond is a new series featuring people who were successfully bridged to transplant with the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart and are now several years post-transplant.
On Jan. 24, 2017, we checked in with Drew Weaver, 35, and his wife Heather, 32. Drew received the SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart on Oct. 18, 2012, and received a heart transplant 86 days later. This January, Drew and his family celebrated his fourth anniversary with his donor heart.
Drew was born with a congenitally malformed aortic valve, known as bicuspid aortic valve disease. The aortic valve is responsible for allowing blood to flow from the heart to the body. He also developed an aneurysm (bulge) of the ascending aorta, which is the main artery that distributes oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the body. Both abnormalities weren’t discovered until he was 30 years old when he began experiencing ocular migraines and went to see a neurologist.
In October 2012, he underwent surgery at a local hospital to have his aorta and aortic valve replaced, but was unable to be weaned from cardiopulmonary bypass, a technique that temporarily takes over the function of the heart and lungs during surgery.
When his heart wouldn’t start beating again, he was transferred to Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah.
Total Artificial Heart Implant
When Drew arrived at Intermountain, he had extensive thrombus (clotting) in his left heart ventricle and was experiencing profound heart failure affecting both sides of his heart, known as biventricular failure. He was in critical condition and on ECMO—a machine that takes over the function of the heart and lungs. Doctors kept him on ECMO for a few days hoping he’d recover, but he didn’t.
“We didn’t feel we could bridge him with anything less than a Total Artificial Heart,” said his surgeon Dr. Bruce Reid.
Drew was implanted with the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart on Oct. 18, 2012. Over the next several months, hospital staff helped him regain his strength and improve his health so that he could be listed for a heart transplant.
On Jan. 7, 2013, Drew was added to the transplant waiting list, and just five days later, he received a matching donor heart. Less than two weeks after his transplant, Drew was discharged from the hospital, and returned home to his wife Heather and his daughter Haley, 17 months old at the time.
“Without the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart, my husband would not have lived, Haley would have grown up without her dad, and I would have lost my best friend,” said Heather after Drew’s transplant. “Having him home is the best thing in the world!”
- Years with Donor Heart: 4+
- Total Artificial Heart Implant: Oct. 18, 2012
- Heart Transplant: Jan. 12, 2013
- Length of Support: 86 days
- Hospital: Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, UT
The experience even prompted Heather to write a book: Unbreakable: A Father’s Fight to Live.
Today, Drew says he is feeling good with no signs of rejection. He and Heather now live in Mesa, Arizona, with their 5-year-old daughter Haley, who is getting ready to start kindergarten, and their new 4-month-old son Reid Nicholas, named after Drew’s heart surgeon, Dr. Reid, and Drew’s donor.
Heather says they have been in touch with the donor’s family since last summer and hope to meet them in person sometime this year or next.
Advice for Others
Based on their experience, Heather urges everyone to know their family medical history. One of Drew’s cousins also has bicuspid aortic valve disease, as does his cousin’s son. Heather and Drew’s son Reid was also born with the condition.
“We never knew about Drew’s condition until he was 30,” said Heather. “It’s really smart to know your family medical history. For us, that means we can start monitoring Reid now, as opposed to 30 years from now, and hopefully avoid him ending up in the same situation as Drew.”
Of his transplant experience, Drew says, “It’s meant the world to me. It’s been quite a ride and I’m very happy to be here for my family.”
Heather adds, “We’re just taking each day one day at a time and enjoying being with our kids. We spend most of our time just the four of us, so we’re enjoying that.”
• Dad with Donor Heart Enjoying Fatherhood Thanks to the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart
• Intermountain Medical Center Uses SynCardia Total Artificial Heart to Bridge 31-Year-Old Father to a Heart Transplant