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Robert Tools
Artificial Heart Transplant

Robert Tools
Mr Tools may yet go back to his fishing hobby

A 59-year-old American man who made medical history by receiving the first self-contained artificial heart has been speaking about the experience.

Robert Tools, of Franklin, Kentucky, finally revealed his identity on Tuesday 21st August 2001, six weeks after the device was fitted at the state's Jewish Hospital in Louisville.

He went on closed circuit television to explain why he took the step and describe how he felt. It may have given him a lease of life of only a couple of months, but Mr Tools had no regrets.

Take any chance
For Mr Tools, the whirring sound of the device in his chest has taken some getting used to but the main thing is being alive.

"I had a choice to stay home and die or come here and take a chance."
"I realize that death is inevitable, but I also realize that if there's an opportunity to extend it, you take it"
said the frail-looking former schoolteacher.

"I decided to come here and take a chance. I asked for it because I knew I had no more chances to survive."

It has been a long haul for the man with the new heart. A diabetes sufferer, he moved to Kentucky from Colorado five years ago in the hope of getting an implant. At the time, he was so weak he could barely cross the street. Doctors told him he would have 30 days at most with the new heart but he has proved them wrong.

He cannot return home just yet as he has to gain 9kg (20 lb) in weight as well as undergo physiotherapy and get fully used to his mechanical heart.

The biggest thing is getting used to not having a heartbeat - I have a whirring sound

Artificial Heart
The actual size of the heart is about the same as a softball

No more tubes
The AbioCor artificial heart, a titanium and plastic device, is self-contained, with internal and external batteries. No wires or tubes protrude through the skin, which reduces the chance of infection.

Instead, Mr Tools wears battery packs which hang from his shoulders and power the device inside his body.

The chairman of the Massachusetts company that created AbioCor, David Lederman of Abiomed Inc., says Mr Tools' progress is encouraging.

"It is too early to claim success, but we are today more confident than ever that we will succeed," he said.

Four other patients are now also due to receive the devices.

Latest News
15th November 2001 

It has been revealed that Robert Tools has suffered a severe stroke three months after surgery. He is partially paralysed down his right side.

Mr Tools, 59, developed a blood clot that migrated to the left side of his brain and caused the stroke on Sunday at Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky.

Surgeon Dr Laman Gray said: "We don't know the prognosis at this time, it could take several weeks.

"We are optimistic that he will make a recovery, but he's had a severe stroke."

Mr Tools underwent surgery this summer to have the grapefruit-sized plastic and titanium heart implanted into his chest.

Blood clots
As with any artificial heart valve, this meant he would be susceptible to blood clots.

The risk was increased because doctors have been unable to deliver the necessary doses of blood-thinning drugs because of Mr Tools' tendency to bleed internally.

Surgeons had to perform a balancing act between delivering the blood-thinning drugs and keeping his bleeding at bay.

At least two procedures were performed to relieve internal bleeding in Mr Tools' gastrointestinal tract in the days and weeks following his surgery.


Diana Chandler
Waiting for transplant
Diann Chandler

Diana writes about waiting for transplant
"It's a bit like playing Russian Roulette with the telephone."

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