Heart transplant

Inside the first artificial heart transplant that ‘grew’ and was plastic


The world’s first artificial heart transplant took place on December 2, 1982, and instead of beating, it made a soft ticking sound and a “huff.”

Heart transplants were already done to prolong life, but on a limited basis and as a last resort.

In 1967, surgeons in South Africa successfully performed the first human-to-human heart transplant, when a man with severe heart damage received the heart of a woman who died in a car crash. This extended his life for an additional 18 days.

A decade and a half later, Barney Clark, 61, had advanced cardiomyopathy – a progressive weakening of the heart muscle – and was 11 too old to be a candidate for a heart transplant, by criteria at the time. .



The Jarvik 7 didn’t beat, but instead made a soft, “whooshed” ticking sound

His only chance to extend his life was a pneumatic heart, called Jarvik 7, named after its creator, Dr. Robert Jarvik.

The 61-year-old met the demands for surgery by suffering fatal heart disease with no other alternative treatment available.

By the time of the operation, he was almost already dead, his heart pumping only a liter of blood per minute – a fifth of the normal rate.



Dr Robert Jarvik is the creator of Jarvik 7
Dr. Robert Jarvik is the creator of the Jarvik 7 artificial heart

The Jarvik 7 consisted of two plastic pumps powered by compressed air, which required the patient to be connected to a refrigerator-sized rolling console at all times.

The artificial heart could pump blood through the body at a rate of 40 to 120 beats per minute and instead of beating, it emitted a slight clicking sound, followed by a “whoosh”.



Dr Robert Jarvik alongside Tennyson, the calf who survived 268 days with an artificial heart
Dr Robert Jarvik alongside Tennyson, the calf who survived 268 days with an artificial heart

Scientists had experimented with artificial heart transplants in calves, the record being held by a man named Tennyson, who survived 268 days after his transplant.

Clark’s operation was considered a success as the retired dentist went on to live for another 112 days, his color changing from blue to pink after injecting more oxygen into his blood after the operation, a said a surgeon. TIME.



Barney Clark could not leave hospital after transplant due to complications
Barney Clark could not leave hospital after transplant due to complications

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The operation did not go smoothly, however, as the 61-year-old suffered a series of seizures a week later, due to the imbalance of fluids and salts.

As a result, he was often disoriented and believed that he still worked as a dentist in Seattle, Washington, USA, and could never leave the hospital.

According to the New York Times, he died of “circulatory collapse and secondary failure of several organs” triggered by an infection which was likely the result of a blood transfusion on March 23, 1983.