A previously-impossible feat is now possible, thanks to new technology: a Michigan man recently left a hospital without a human heart and is resting at home while waiting for a heart transplant.

This impressive new technology is a battery-supplied power supply that weighs about 13 pounds and fits in a backpack called Freedom Driver.

The man is 24-year-old Stan Larkin, and thanks to the Freedom Driver, Larkin was able to spend Christmas at home with his family, even without his heart.

In 2007, Larkin collapsed while playing a basketball game, the result of a heart problem called right ventricular dysplasia, a common condition in athletes, although the disease is also inherited. Although some can live with the disease for the rest of their lives, Larkin's condition became worse, resulting in doctors removing his heart and replacing it with a total artificial heart while waiting for a transplant.

However, artificial hearts require a power supply, and the most common is something called Big Blue, a device that weighs over 400 pounds. Obviously, this means that the patient connected to Big Blue while waiting for a transplant must remain in the hospital, and mobility is not an option. This means that many patients spend years in the hospital because, unfortunately, the transplant list is long and available donors are often few.

With the advent of Freedom Driver, though, which the FDA approved last year, a patient with an artificial heart awaiting a transplant, can go home and live a fairly normal life.

"The device Stan has is the SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart, a mechanical pump to bridge him to transplantation," says University of Michigan cardiac surgeon Jonathan Haft, M.D. "He's still listed for a heart transplant and we hope to transplant him as soon as an organ is available. In the meantime he can be at home, he can be functional, and continue to rehabilitate himself so he's in the best possible shape when his opportunity comes."

Of course, Larkin has rules he lives by, including keeping the Freedom Driver with him at all times, eating meals with low sodium and taking blood-thinning medications.

Over 5 million Americans have some kind of heart disease, with 10 percent of them experiencing total heart failure requiring a transplant. The Freedom Driver now makes the transplantation wait easier after getting an artificial heart and gives patients the ability to live at home while waiting.

If all else fails, though, the total artificial heart inside Larkin could work indefinitely. The FDA recently approved a long-term study of the SynCardia device in an effort to decide if it's valid for permanent use.

[Photo Credit: SynCardia]

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