Living Without a Heart
The Incredible Case of Stan Larkin
Stan Larkin was the first patient in Michigan to ever be discharged with a SynCardia total artificial heart, back in 2014. He, long with his brother, was diagnosed with familial cardiomyopathy, a condition that can kill instantly and without warning - a leading cause of death among athletes.
His brother received a transplant back in 2015, but Stan had to wait until just recently to receive his own transplant. In the mean time, he wore a backpack 24/7 for 555 days, containing an artificial heart that pumped his blood for him. The unit, which weighs about 6 kilos, is a revolutionary tool that is hoped to be able to help others with severe heart failure while they wait for a life saving transplant.
The total artificial heart is a temporary replacement used when both sides of a person's heart fail, and the more conventional devices such as an implanted defibrillator won't work. When Dr. Jonathan Haft first met the two brothers, they were extremely sick.
"They were both very, very ill when we first met them in our intensive care units," says Haft. "We wanted to get them heart transplants, but we didn't think we had enough time. There's just something about their unique anatomic situation where other technology wasn't going to work."
The incredible part of the story is that Stan not only was living without a heart for over a year, but led an almost normal life. He was able to play basketball with it on, something that astounded his doctors.
Haft, as associate professor of cardiac surgery at the University of Michigan Medical School, is grateful that the two brothers have allowed this to become an opportunity for education, and that they've come together to share their story of how artificial support can help those with severe heart failure.
According to the American Heart Association, there are about 5.7 million Americans currently living with heart failure, with about 10% having an advanced stage.
"You're heroes to all of us," says David J. Pinsky, M.D., a director of the U-M Frankel Cardiovascular Center. "The fact that you take your story public and allow us to teach others makes a difference. You'll make a difference for a lot of patients. You'll make a difference to the doctors of the future. We thank you for allowing us to share your story and your bravery in sharing it."
Completely replacing a heart with an artificial one in a backpack is an incredible demonstration of the technologies that transhumanists are trying to push. We can be thankful to Stan Larkin and his brother for making their story public and allowing others to understand the truly transformative power that technology has when used as an augmentation of the human body.
Will this be the path forward? Here are some questions to ponder:
- Should we provide a temporary, carry-around heart for all those with critical heart failure in order to live almost normal lives while waiting for a transplant?
- Stan was living without a heart for over a year, how long could have this continued?
- If in a similar situation, would you opt for an artificial heart you could carry around?
- Would it perhaps be better to have a permanent artificial heart instead of a transplant?
This is certainly an interesting time to be alive. With this, and other technologies, humans may be just around the corner from extending their lives indefinitely.