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The BBC's science correspondent Fergus Walsh
"Peter Houghton's heart is still going strong"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 27 June, 2001, 17:10 GMT 18:10 UK
Heart pump man thriving
Peter Houghton BBC
Peter Houghton is enjoying his new lease of life
A man who was the first in the UK to receive a permanent artificial heart pump is enjoying life to the full - a year after the operation.

Peter Houghton, who is now 62, had the pump fitted in June 2000.

He had been given only weeks to live without the operation, as his own heart was working at 10% of normal capacity. But surgeons were unsure whether the pump would be able to prolong his life.

I shouldn't be doing some of these things but I've taken the view that if you're on the Titanic you might as well enjoy yourself

Peter Houghton
However, he is celebrating the first anniversary of the surgery - and his heart is now five times stronger than before, as the support of the pump has allowed the damaged organ to partly repair itself.

His surgeon, Stephen Westaby, from the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, is now hopeful that the device will receive government funding so that other patients can benefit.

Potentially, there are thousands of patients who could benefit each year - but the device may prove prohibitively expensive for the NHS.

Mr Houghton is making the most of his new life, taking microlite aircraft flights and going on charity walks.

One day at a time

He told the BBC that he felt well: "I shouldn't be doing some of these things but I've taken the view that if you're on the Titanic you might as well enjoy yourself.

"I'm just taking every opportunity that happens and seeing what happens to me."

The revolutionary pump, the Jarvik 2000, uses a turbine to increase the power of each heartbeat.

It actually sits alongside the chamber of the heart which pumps blood around the body.

This is powered by an external battery which is linked to the device by a wire entering through the skull and passing down the neck. The batteries need to be changed every eight hours.

The operation to fit it is complex - in Mr Houghton's case, it took 14 hours.

So-called "ventricular support" devices are nothing new, but the previously cumbersome size meant that they could only remain in the patient for only a few months, so were used as a short-term measure to keep desperately ill patients alive until a transplant organ could be found.

The Jarvik 2000 is much smaller, meaning in theory it can be left in permanently, provided it does not fail mechanically.

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See also:

08 Sep 00 | Health
Pump hope for heart patients
11 Sep 00 | Health
Heart pump patient 'doing well'
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