Patient Stories

Johnny's Story

Johnny faced a formidable opponent that threatened to extinguish his passion forever, cardiomyopathy. Despite a "widow-maker" heart attack and a relentless battle for survival, he defied the odds and embarked on an extraordinary journey towards a temporary total artificial heart.

Johnny, 55, has been a collegiate and high school soccer referee for the past 34 years. But heart failure nearly put him on the sidelines.

Johnny was first diagnosed with heart failure after an echocardiogram (EKG) revealed he was having a severe heart attack known as a “widow-maker.” A subsequent angiogram showed that his ejection fraction — the percentage of blood that leaves the heart each time it contracts — was only 14%. A normal ejection fraction is between 55% and 70%.

Doctors tried a number of interventions to treat Johnny’s heart failure, including stents and an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), but a few weeks later, he went into cardiac arrest. He was immediately placed on the heart transplant waiting list, but doctors feared he wouldn’t survive long enough to receive one. With time running out, doctors approached Johnny and his family about the SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart (TAH).

“I knew that I needed a transplant,” said Johnny. “I said, ‘If it’s going to keep me alive, I’m for it 100 percent.’”