TEXT ON SCREEN: December 2, 1982
ARCHIVAL (ABC, 12-2-82): FRANK REYNOLDS: Barney Clark, 61 years old, a retired dentist. Not long ago, he told a friend, “If I can do something for mankind, I will.”
ARCHIVAL (CBS, 12-2-82):
DAN RATHER: Today, he made medical history as the first human to receive a permanent artificial heart.
NARRATION: In December of 1982, doctors at the University of Utah removed a diseased and ailing heart from the chest of Barney Clark.
ARCHIVAL (ABC, 12-2-82): CHASE PETERSON (VP HEALTH SCIENCE CENTER): His heart was really not pumping. It was just almost quivering.
NARRATION: They replaced it with a man-made device – the Jarvik 7 artificial heart.
ARCHIVAL (NBC, 11-24-84): DR. WILLIAM DEVRIES: It goes right where your heart would go in your chest.
NARRATION: Clark survived the surgery, and the heart was hailed as a breakthrough in the fight against heart disease.
ARCHIVAL (ABC, 3-24-83): DOCTOR: The artificial heart is, in some important ways, stronger than the natural heart.
DR. WILLIAM DEVRIES: I thought it was going to help a lot of people. I thought it was going to immediately take off.
NARRATION: But complications with the artificial heart led to questions…
ARCHIVAL (CBS, 05-08-85): REPORTER: Does it cause dangerous clots?
ARCHIVAL (CBS, 11-20-85): DAN RATHER: Is the cost in suffering too high?
NARRATION: More than three decades later, heart disease is still the leading cause of death in America. Did the device inspire artificial hope or real change?
LANCE WHITE: If you want to take out something that’s bad and put something good in there, that’s a win-win for everybody.
A CHANGE OF HEART
HELEN KEE (NURSING SERVICES DIRECTOR): At seven minutes after midnight the heart was removed.
NARRATION: Barney Clark was near death when doctors rushed him into surgery. He had end stage congestive heart failure and was out of options.
ARCHIVAL: DR. WILLIAM DEVRIES: He was too old for a transplant. He had no drugs that would help him. And the only thing he had to look forward to was dying.
NARRATION: Days earlier, Clark had agreed to have his heart replaced by a man made one as part of an experimental study led by heart surgeon William DeVries.
DR. WILLIAM DEVRIES (PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR, ARTIFICIAL HEART PROJECT): Most people would say, ‘I want to live longer,’ but he said, “I want to do something that may help the people that come after me.
NARRATION: The pioneering surgery lasted 7-and-a-half hours.
DR. WILLIAM DEVRIES: The whole team’s up there. We wait ‘til the heart stops, and then we put the heart in him, and then the heart starts beating. And we’re all excited. I mean, it was intense, let me tell you. Every fiber of my being was on full alert.
ARCHIVAL (NBC, 12-3-82): TOM BROKAW: Barney Clark is doing just fine tonight. But he’s not out of the woods yet.
ARCHIVAL (CBS, 12-3-82): REPORTER: He’s breathing on his own and has spoken his first words since surgery. DOCTOR: He wanted a glass of water.
DR. WILLIAM DEVRIES: When he woke up, he said, “I, I, I—This feels good. I’m glad I’m beating.” And then he looked at his wife and she leaned down, and he said, “I want to tell you that even though I don’t have a heart, I still love you.” And… There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
ARCHIVAL (NBC, 3-2-83): DR. WILLIAM DEVRIES: What does it feel like to have an artificial heart in the chest? Do you have pain or is it uncomfortable? BARNEY CLARK: Not at all. It’s feels…It’s comfortable.
NARRATION: The heart inside Barney Clark was called the Jarvik 7, named after its lead inventor, Dr. Robert Jarvik.
DR. ROBERT JARVIK: We always have thought that it’s clearly a benefit to the patient to do this.
NARRATION: The Jarvik 7 was made up of two pumping chambers attached by velcro and powered by a large external air compressor.
ARCHIVAL (ABC, 1-2-82): DR. ROBERT JARVIK: We believe it will serve a very large number of patients that cannot be reached with heart transplants. There just plain aren’t enough donors.
NARRATION: There are only about 2000 heart donors a year, yet tens of thousands of patients who could benefit from a transplant. The Jarvik 7 was hailed as a medical miracle and the media covered every update on Clark’s condition.
ARCHIVAL (NBC, 3-2-83): TOM BROKAW: By now he’s so familiar that he’s just like a member of the family.
ARCHIVAL (NBC, 3-2-83): DR. WILLIAM DEVRIES: I think he’s climbing a mountain, he’s not to the summit yet.
DR. WILLIAM DEVRIES: He had times when it was good and times it wasn’t good. He had trouble breathing.
ARCHIVAL (NBC, 12-14-82): DOCTOR: Five hours into the 13th day of the artificial heart, Dr. Clark had a sudden drop in blood pressure…
DR. WILLIAM DEVRIES: He was mainly bound in the hospital, but he could do more things with the heart than he could without the heart.
ARCHIVAL (ABC, 3-24-83): UNA LOY CLARK (WIFE): This is a second chance at life for us and we’re very, very grateful.
NARRATION: During that second chance, Barney Clark battled seizures, infections and more, and nearly four months after receiving the artificial heart he died.
ARCHIVAL (CBS, 3-24-83): DR. WILLIAM DEVRIES: His lungs failed. Next his brain failed. And lastly when the key was turned off, his heart failed.
DR. WILLIAM DEVRIES: When he died, I said to myself, ‘okay, I know that everybody’s going to look at this as just an event, and looking at it as just possible chance that it worked. We need to do it again.’
ARCHIVAL (ABC, 11-25-84): SAM DONALDSON: Good evening. The operation was a success. The patient is in stable condition. That’s the word from Louisville, Kentucky tonight on William Schroeder.
NARRATION: In November of 1984, at Humana Heart Institute in Louisville, Kentucky, Dr. DeVries performed an artificial heart operation on a second dying patient – 52 year-old William Schroeder. The results were dramatic.
ARCHIVAL (SCHROEDER HOSPITAL FOOTAGE, 1984): WILLIAM SCHROEDER: Fantastic. It’s just a complete turnaround. DR. WILLIAM DEVRIES: In-in how you feel, or— WILLIAM SCHROEDER: I can breathe. I feel like I’ve got ten years going right now. DR. WILLIAM DEVRIES: Well, we hope you do! WILLIAM SCHROEDER: Well, I really do.
DR. WILLIAM DEVRIES:Bill Schroeder was incredible. I mean, he—They had him on television a lot. He wanted to talk to the TV because he loved talking to people.
ARCHIVAL (CBS, 5-8-85): WILLIAM SCHROEDER: Who knows, maybe I’ll be the bionic man.
NARRATION: In the days following his operation, Schroeder felt good enough to tell jokes and drink a beer. He even asked President Ronald Reagan about his social security benefits.
ARCHIVAL (HOSPITAL FOOTAGE, SCHROEDER ON THE PHONE, 1984): WILLIAM SCHROEDER: I just keep on calling and keep on calling and I don’t get anywhere. PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: Well, I will get into it, and find out what this situation is.
NARRATION: He got his check the next day, but shortly after Schroeder had a stroke and his recovery stalled.
ARCHIVAL (CBS, 12-14-84): REPORTER: Schroeder lost consciousness for almost an hour. He was paralyzed on his right side.
ARCHIVAL (ABC, 4-8-85): REPORTER: But the major continuing deficit from the stroke is Schroeder’s speech. MALE: How are you feeling? SCHROEDER: [unintelligible] FEMALE: He feels real fine.
DR. WILLIAM DEVRIES: The heart is, is something that moves—the blood moves through it, and it. If you damage the blood too much, it will clot. And that was a real medical problem.
NARRATION: DeVries implanted artificial hearts in two more patients, but Schroeder outlived them both and remained the center of media attention.
ARCHIVAL (CBS, 5- 8-85):
SCHROEDER’S WIFE: Can you wave to everybody?
NARRATION: Schroeder had more strokes and TV cameras documented his deteriorating health.
ARCHIVAL (ABC, 11-25-85): REPORTER: He can barely speak, is partially paralyzed, and often doesn’t recognize his family.
NARRATION: With images like these broadcast across the nation, many began to question whether the artificial heart experiment was worth the suffering.
ARCHIVAL (ABC, 11-25-85): RICHARD THRELKELD: William Schroeder’s been living with an artificial heart. Living, yes. But the quality of his life has not been at all as his doctors and family had planned.
ARCHIVAL (CBS, 6-19-86): DR. GEORGE ANNAS (MEDICAL ETHICIST): They’ve proven that you can prolong the dying process. But they certainly haven’t proven that you can give anyone any type of reasonable quality of life.
DR. WILLIAM DEVRIES: I’d turn on the news, read the newspaper, and there was really bad articles came out about this is bad – I was playing God, and I should’ve let them die. And if I really got upset, all I had to do was walk down the hall into one of the rooms. I’d say, “Do you really want us to stop?’ And boy, you’d say that, they’d no, none of them said, “Stop.”
NARRATION: William Schroeder lived for nearly two years with his artificial heart. But after he died in August of 1986, the Jarvik 7 went from Medical Miracle to the ‘Dracula of Medical Technology.’ Then, 4 years later the FDA cited the heart’s manufacturer for quality control and reporting violations.
ARCHIVAL (ABC, 1-11-90): PETER JENNINGS: The government has withdrawn its approval of the Jarvik artificial heart.
NARRATION: Dr. DeVries was told to destroy his remaining hearts.
DR. WILLIAM DEVRIES:I had a whole bunch, like about 10 of them. And I remember going into the office of the administrator of the hospital with a knife and cutting heart holes in their diaphragm so I could never use them again. That was probably the saddest day of my life.
NARRATION: His study was over, and the artificial heart faded from public view – but it didn’t go away.
More than two decades later, Randy Shepherd’s heart was failing so rapidly that he was in danger of dying at any moment. With no donor heart available, his doctor gave him another option – the artificial heart.
RANDY L. SHEPHERD: I’m like, well, so you’re cutting my heart out of my chest and sticking, basically making me a robot. I’m like what’s Plan B? I don’t want to do that.
NARRATION: But Shepherd did want to live, so he agreed to the surgery. The FDA had approved a different use for the artificial heart – not a permanent implant but a temporary bridge to transplant. It was a way to keep patients alive while waiting for a donor heart.
Shepherd’s recovery from the surgery was difficult, especially mentally.
RANDY L. SHEPHERD: All of a sudden my heart’s gone and I’ve got a machine in there and it’s like, wow. It was just a feeling of loss of like not being a person of not being a self.
NARRATION: He lived with his artificial heart for 14 months, and now that he’s had a heart transplant, he leads a normal, active life.
RANDY L. SHEPHERD:I’m running, trail running, lifting weights. So looking back at this point I can say absolutely it’s worth it. Without the artificial heart I wouldn’t be here. Would not have made it to transplant without the artificial heart.
DR. ZAIN KHALPEY (DIRECTOR, ARTIFICIAL HEART PROGRAM, BANNER – UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER TUCSON): It’s very exciting, because I think things that couldn’t be done in the 1980’s can now be done in patients who really need help.
NARRATION: Today what used to be called the Jarvik 7 is called the Syncardia Temporary Total Artificial Heart. It now comes in different sizes, so it can fit more women and children. Other than that, the device hasn’t changed much since the days of Barney Clark.
DR. FRANCISCO ARABIA (SURGICAL DIRECTOR, ARTIFICIAL HEART, CEDARS-SINAI HEART INSTITUTE): We have learned how to use it.There is no doubt that a device at that time was ahead of its time. The concept was ahead of its time.
NARRATION: Doctors have learned how to control the blood clots and infections that plagued the early patients, and the artificial heart has now been used about 1600 times as a bridge to transplant.
DR. FRANCISCO ARABIA: Once the device is in and you turn it on, it’s quite remarkable. They go from almost being dead to having what many people call a super heart.
NARRATION: And with the development of smaller, portable power packs, artificial heart patients can even leave the hospital and live at home while waiting for a donor heart.
LANCE WHITE: I have two dogs, so I go out and I walk in the backyard with my dogs, and I play with them. I say 99 percent of my days are great.
NARRATION: Lance White has been waiting at home for nearly two years. The machine that powers his heart weighs about 13 pounds and can be carried in a backpack.
LANCE WHITE: Most of the time I’m plugged up to the wall with that. Now if I want to go somewhere I can take it out, and I can have just this with me.
NARRATION: The machine makes a constant beating noise and is connected to the artificial heart by tubes, but he’s not complaining.
LANCE WHITE: If that’s the price I have to pay so to speak to do another 40, 50 years, to watch my kids grow up, to have grandkids, that’s easy.
NARRATION: With the success of the artificial heart as a bridge to transplant, doctors see a future once again for the device as a permanent implant… this time with the benefit of modern medical care.
DR. ZAIN KHALPEY: The FDA have approved a trial, which allows this total artificial heart to be the complete substitute for a heart transplant. And that’s called a bridge to a destination. Which means that this will stay with you until you die.
NARRATION: At the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, the very first patient in the trial recently received a permanent artificial heart - the first since doctors operated on Barney Clark, William Schroeder and others three decades ago.
DR. ROBERT JARVIK:I think there’s undeniable evidence now that’s it’s been a big success in the long term.
DR. WILLIAM DEVRIES:It works great. And they’ve had electric hearts, and they’ve had all kinds of things that say, “This is better and better,” but this heart is the only one that’s really been used consecutively all that time and it’s withstanded 30, 40 years now.