Female Army Veteran Gets Second Chance at Life with SynCardia's Total Artificial Heart After Being Referred to Hospice Care
Told it was Too Late for Transplant, Patient's Husband Convinced Doctors to Send Her to VCU Medical Center in Richmond to "Give Her a Chance"
TUCSON, Ariz. – June 2, 2011 – In 1992, Army veteran Margaret Daugherty, then 22, was blessed with a donor heart. Following the transplant, she was able to return to a normal, healthy life for 18½ years. However, in December 2010, Margaret was admitted to the local VA hospital in Lexington, Ky, her donor heart barely functioning. She had received a pacemaker that August, but her condition had continued to deteriorate.
Her doctors had hoped she could undergo a second heart transplant, so she was transferred to a transplant center in Nashville, Tenn., but her liver, kidneys and lungs were failing. With tears in his eyes, Margaret's cardiologist told her husband, Brian Younglove, that there was nothing more they could do. He recommended they return home and make Margaret comfortable in hospice care.
Not ready to give up, the couple had heard of Total Artificial Hearts being implanted at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Medical Center in Richmond for patients who were gravely ill and needed a transplant. "I said 'Send her to Richmond and give her a chance,' " said Younglove. "My thought was, put her on the table, and if she dies on the table, she dies fighting."
Margaret's doctors contacted Dr. Gundars Katlaps, Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Richmond VA for placing a heart pump. He then referred her to VCU due to severe biventricular failure (failure affecting both sides of the heart). She arrived in Richmond on Dec. 17, 2010. "She was in profound heart failure," said Dr. Vigneshwar Kasirajan, Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at VCU. "She could barely speak. We were very concerned about what was going to happen to her kidneys."
Margaret, who had been on dialysis, had swollen to 220 pounds from her normal 140 pounds due to the excessive fluid building up in her body. Three days after her arrival in Richmond, she was implanted with the SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart.
By March, Margaret's condition had stabilized and she became the first female Total Artificial Heart patient at VCU to be discharged from the hospital using the Freedom® portable driver. She is participating in an FDA-approved Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) clinical study of the Freedom driver, the 1st U.S. portable driver designed to power SynCardia's Total Artificial Heart both inside and outside the hospital.
Margaret is currently waiting for her matching donor heart at the Hospitality House near VCU. Wearing the Freedom driver in the Backpack, she enjoys doing Tai Chi in a nearby park.
"Why stay in the hospital waiting?" she says. "The world is out there waiting to be experienced."
About SynCardia Systems, LLC
SynCardia Systems, LLC in Tucson, Ariz., is the privately-held manufacturer of the world's first and only FDA, Health Canada and CE approved Total Artificial Heart. For people suffering from end-stage heart failure affecting both sides of the heart (biventricular failure), the SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart is used as a bridge to transplant, helping them survive until a matching donor heart becomes available. SynCardia also manufactures the Freedom® portable driver, which powers the temporary Total Artificial Heart and allows clinically stable patients to be discharged from the hospital to enjoy life at home while they wait for a heart transplant.
Janelle Drumwright, firstname.lastname@example.org, (520) 547-7463