AK man uses portable ‘driver’ for artificial heart



SEATTLE (AP) — A 51-year-old Wasilla, Alaska, man fitted with an artificial heart in a six-hour surgery last month has left a Seattle hospital to begin what may be a long wait for a heart transplant.

The Seattle Times reports that such artificial heart patients typically have been tethered to a 400-pound mechanical “driver.” That meant they had to stay in a hospital until a donor heart became available — a year or longer.

Christopher Marshall is using a backpack-sized portable driver being tested by the University of Washington Medical Center and other such centers. KOMO-TV reports that Marshall is one of about 40 in the United States trying the 13 1/2-pound device.

He was diagnosed in 1999 with an irregular fast heartbeat and a disease that destroys heart muscle. His condition worsened dramatically last year.

Still, when he and his wife arrived Jan. 23 in Seattle, they expected a short visit to heart specialists. They were told Marshall was so sick he needed a new heart – now.

They will stay in the Seattle area while they wait for a donor heart.