The Heart Implant Journal


I still have not opened the journal, but I will now as my first entry into documentation of the historic event which began with the artificial heart program in Louisville. I have very little memory of what I recorded day by day, since it was 24 years ago.

Okay…opened journal. The first entries are written before the patient was in our hospital and we are preparing everyone on the team for this alien venture:



First meeting today with L. Hastings. Lectured on the history leading up to the implantation of the mechanical heart first implanted in Barney Clark in Utah. Larry showed some disdain for Cooley who tried x 2 to successfully achieve this some years ago in the 1960s. We are geared up ready to go. Expect that we may do our implant by Thanksgiving. Receiving much publicity, some negative, some positive. Thinking of buying some stock in Symbion, just in case this thing goes big. Never have thought of buying stock before.

It is to our great advantage that the implant patient will come to CCU, not ICU. Moderate amount of friction and competition between the units. ICU has done post-op care on both heart transplants. But we get the artificial heart. New unit, 2 big rooms in our 8-bed unit which will accommodate 2 artificial heart patients. I cannot say I feel personally “ready” because everything is so new and different. So much equipment. So much to learn. All sort of a maze now. Really like Dr. DeVries so far. Don’t care much for Dr. Lancing and his team. They are all very arrogant and like to appear as gods. The Arabs on his team are insufferable. Different culture. Very negative and at best, patronizing towards women, in spite of our education and degrees.  I ignore them for the most part and am hopeful we don’t have to work with the _ _ _ _ _ jockeys any more than possible.



Today purchased 175 shares in Symbion. Cost was $3.50 per share. I can think both positively and negatively on it like two sides of a debate team. It’s alot to spend, but if it takes off and we are successful…



Well, apparently we have our recipient. All info is being kept very tight. I left the notes I took in my uniform pocket at work, but his name is William something. In his 50s. They had a dentist come in and extract several teeth that were rotten. A social worker, and a psychiatrist have seen him. Dr. Winslow saw him for R/O COPD. There is just no question but that this is the candidate, although nothing has been said at all. Not even team members, like us, are notified. They’re very paranoid about the press finding out anything specific.

L. Hastings, who I believe is an engineer, said, when they did Barney Clark, there were 400 reporters in the hospital lobby and it was a blinding snowstorm. I just can’t see that kind of an avalanche here, but we’ll see.

The target date of the implant is Monday. My close friend, Cindy, will be one of the first nurses, along with two others, and me, to be in the room from the beginning. Took me back a bit, as we did not know who would be in immediately post-op.

Just to get the idea that we will be taking care of someone with no heart is daunting…we are used to monitoring the screen for the heart rhythm. There will be only a waveform, instead of a heart rhythm. Two drive lines (about 1 ½ ” in diameter), will protrude from his artificial heart out the left side of his body, and will be hooked to the Utah Drive. It is about 3 by 2 feet. It looks like a small refrigerator, and it runs the heart. The equipment alone is pretty overwhelming. The computer that collects all the info from the Jarvik-7 stands to the ceiling. So much equipment in the room.

I should feel elated over our spy-mission earlier today of finding out who the patient is. He has already been admitted. I don’t have any information on him other than he is here.

I am glad that the people who will be in the room…4 nurses, Dr. DeVries, Dr. Jarvik, and the pump technician, are all easy-going compatible people. Looks to be a good crew. Rob Jarvik and Bill DeVries are both very young and have been together since Jarvik invented the artificial heart. DeVries is very tall, probably 6’5″, funny and personable.

All the nurses in the unit have extensive critical care backgrounds, and I am close to them all. We all work well together. There is a real feeling of togetherness in this venture and we are feeling that we are writing history. We will have a Pulitizer Prize winning photographer in the unit with us for the first few weeks.

Plan on going to the Fort this weekend to see family. My mother is excited about this whole thing, and I wish my father had lived to see this venture. I think of him often. I have to remember to tell my brother, Bob, that DeVries implanted the first artificial heart into Barney Clark at the same hospital in Utah where he (Bob) was flown in to for hand surgery after his skiing accident.



Back from Fort Wayne. Went for my niece, Annie’s wedding. Got a call from Melinda Bagby.  She says Wm. Schroeder has gallstones and they have to take him to surgery to get his G.B. removed before we can go forward.

There are several puzzling things about why they chose a candidate with rotten teeth, diabetic and now turns up with gallstones  on the eve of the implant. Why not a healthier candidate? We have an 8-day projected delay.

Spike (my husband) said he briefly saw snatches of a news conference this morning with DeVries talking about candidate selection. This guy is a factory worker from Jasper, Indiana. I think he is on disability. I have heard some rumbles about him. It is wait and see time.

Also, Mel told me the scuttlebutt is that a memo came around during the weekend telling the employees they all had to park in the west parking lot or commute from the Louisville Zoo. LL2 is going to have reserved parking for the PRESS! LL2 is where we all park! It will be a cold day when I commute from the zoo so the press can park in our parking spaces. I will be parking in my usual space.


To be continued…

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