Doctors at UIHC Transplant Iowa’s First Total Artificial Heart

By Mark Carlson, Reporter



By Aaron Hepker

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Cardiologists at the University of Iowa have successfully transplanted the first total artificial heart into a patient in need of a heart transplant. Rick Whittington, 59, of Geneseo, Illinois walked out of the hospital earlier today. Whittington was pulling much of what makes his new heart work in a backpack behind him.

“I had a cardiologist back in Davenport who told me if I could hang on for five more years people like these (UIHC Doctors) would have something for me, and they did” said Whittington.

Whittington said he’s had heart problems for 25 years. He had his first heart attack at 33.

“It was clear to me that he needed this,” said Dr. Francis Johnson, a cardiologist who worked on the transplant team. “The right and left side of his heart were causing disability and loss of organ function.”

Whittington will now wait at home for a new heart. Dr. James Davis, Director of Cardiac Surgery at UIHC, said eventually doctors want to transplant a human heart into Whittington.

The luxury of the artificial heart is that it gives the patient a chance to live a relatively healthy and normal life while waiting for a transplant, Davis said. Whittington said he would have died if he didn’t opt to have the temporary transplant.

According to Tom Moore, spokesman for UIHC, Whittington is the first patient to leave the hospital with a total artificial heart in the Midwest.

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