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Back in the Game

This heart transplant recipient's gray backpack would essentially carry his mobile artificial heart as he went without a real one for nearly 18 months.

I don’t think anyone would debate that 16 is not always an easy age. However, very few 16-year- olds have dealt with the same types of concerns as Stan Larkin.

After collapsing while playing basketball with his friends, it was discovered that he had a genetic form of heart disease called familial cardiomyopathy. Not long after, his brother Dominique was diagnosed with the same condition.This means the Larkin’s heart muscles were enlarged to the point where one of their chambers was not being allowed to consistently or efficiently pump blood.

So both brothers were placed on donor lists and played the waiting game.

As years passed and their hearts continued to deteriorate, both were forced to have a temporary artificial heart surgically placed to help improve blood flow. Fortunately, Dominique would undergo areal heart transplant within weeks of this procedure.Unfortunately, Stan would need to wait. But a new, novel solution presented itself for the now 24-year-old.

While Stan Larkin looked like anyone else with a gray backpack strapped on his shoulders – its contents were literally keeping him alive. In late 2014 his real heart was removed, so only the “temporary”artificial heart was in place. But powering it would be a device that allowed Larkin to live a fairly normal life while he awaited a transplant.

Larkin would be the first person in the Midwest to use the Freedom Portable Driver. The 13.5-poundbackpack-mounted power supply used a pair of rechargeable lithium ion batteries to run a pump that connected to his implanted artificial heart via two tubes exiting the left side of his body.

For the next 555 days, Stan Larkin essentially had no heart.

Not when he was the first total artificial heart patient to be discharged from the University of Michigan hospital.

Not when he played basketball with this friends.

Not when he pushed the limits of the Freedom Driver to the brink in needing to exchange it for a new model 10 times. And not when he checked in for surgery last month to finally receive a real heart transplant.

The operation, I’m happy to say, was a success. And just to add a little perspective on how long Stan wore his heart on his back – the Republican frontrunner for the President 555 days ago – Jeb Bush.

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