Local Man Receives Artificial Heart - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Local Man Receives Artificial Heart

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Home is where the heart is. One Quad Cities area man is back home as the first person in Iowa to receive a total artificial heart.

Richard Whittington, 59, of Geneseo left University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics Tuesday afternoon, about a month after his surgery. This also makes him the first patient in the Midwest to get this surgery and leave the hospital while waiting for a transplant.

"I think the only reason I'm sitting here is because somebody might be out there and in the same shape as me and they need to know about it," said Whittington, "I was on my last lap." He had his first heart attack in his mid-thirties, followed by several more that required bypass surgeries, stints, and pacemakers.

"It was clear he wasn't going to survive long enough to get a heart transplant. For someone like him we didn't have good alternatives until the total artificial heart," said Dr. Frances Johnson, a cardiologist working with Whittington.

Doctor James Davis showed a model of the artificial heart at UIHC. It has two sides and long tubes that come out the patient's abdominal to attach to a portable pump. "It basically pumps air in and out which causes the air chambers to move and push the blood around on the inside." Davis performed the day-long surgery which marked the first for UIHC and the entire state of Iowa. Dr. Davis says, however, what's more important is that Whittington gets to leave the hospital. Before, patients who needed total heart support while waiting for an actual transplant had to stay hospitalized, sometimes for more than six months.

"The ability to be at home with all of that means it's more than just surviving, it's living," added Davis.

The walk down the hallway to leave the hospital, physically impossible for Whittington over a month ago, came with ease on Tuesday. The journey continues as Whittington waits for an available heart, but he says at least he'll be home. "I get to go home. I don't have to sit in here. Even though I like these guys I get to go home," added Whittington.

Doctors say after this surgery the likelihood of getting a transplant is about 85 percent. Until then, Whittington has to return to a clinic on a weekly basis.