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Wednesday, 26 September, 2001, 11:17 GMT 12:17 UK
Heart implant man 'making progress'
Robert Tools on TV
Mr Tools has been enjoying walks in the park
The first man to be implanted with a self-contained artificial heart is doing so well two months after his operation, he can take walks in the park.

A second patient, who was implanted with an artificial heart on September 13 was safely taken off the ventilator that was helping him breathe just a day after his operation.

The patients both suffered from chronic heart failure, and were given just a 10% to 20% chance of living for more than 30 days before they received the new hearts.

The operations took place at the Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky.

The artificial heart
Patients with the hearts are doing well
Robert Tools, 59, of Franklin, Kentucky, had his operation on July 2.

Tom Christerson, 70, had his new heart implanted on September 13.

Battery powered

The self-contained mechanical heart has no outside wires and the patient has a 30-minute battery implanted in the abdomen.

An external power source passes power through the skin and an implanted control device adjusts the heart, made by Abiomed Inc. of Danvers, Massachusetts.

Other designs, including one which has been implanted in a British man for over a year, require wires from an outside battery pack to pass into the body through a hole in the skull.

Speaking in August, Mr Tools said: "I had a choice to stay home and die or come here and take a chance.

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

Mr Tools can now plug and unplug his own heart battery.

He is enjoying his trips to a local park, but the trips need to be carefully planned to avoid any chance of electrical interference with the heart.

Hospital officials even mapped out the city's electrical grid, and did a test run in a car with an artificial heart to make sure it would be unaffected.

Surgeons from the Jewish Hospital said that on one trip, Mr Tools, a former teacher, was enjoying himself so much he wanted to stop for a burger.

Eating had been a problem for Mr Tools, a diabetic. But since he was given his artificial heart, he saw an improvement in the function of his liver and kidneys.

Surgeon Robert Dowling said: "He had one bite (of a hamburger) and got sick in his stomach."

He added the doctors thought: "Oh gosh, we're going to get sued."

Minor operations

Mr Tools had two minor operations to stop internal bleeding within a week of his operation.

He had a feeding tube removed last week, and is gaining weight and strength, though doctors are concerned about the speed of his recovery.

No decision has yet been made about whether Mr Tools will be allowed to go home, but doctors caring for him have contacted officials overseeing the experimental procedure to begin looking at if it will be possible.

Mr Christerson has had a drainage tube inserted in his chest to remove some internal bleeding, which doctors say could be related to the use of blood thinners.

Neither patient has suffered from blood clotting, which had affected patients who received earlier artificial hearts.

See also:

17 Jul 01 | Health
Artificial heart 'working well'
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