LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A new experimental heart device implanted in David Vensel's chest let him live through Christmas and play with his three great-grandchildren again.
Vensel, a retired Louisville police officer, is only the second person to go home after receiving the Arrow LionHeart, a heart-assist device that is fully implanted in the body.
"I'm just tickled to death that I'm here," said Vensel, who received the device Oct. 28 at Jewish Hospital. "There are people who don't get the opportunity to do what I did."
The device, which is made by Arrow International Inc. of Reading, Pa., takes over the workload for the left ventricle, pumping blood throughout the body. It is powered by an implanted battery, which is recharged by electromagnetic energy passing from a coil outside the body to another coil implanted beneath the skin, eliminating the need for cords or tubes.
Vensel, 69, returned home on Dec. 24 - just in time for a big family Christmas - and has had little trouble with the device since. He met with reporters Thursday at Jewish Hospital, and walked into a meeting room without assistance.
"I'm not as active as I'd like to be," said Vensel, a former Army paratrooper, who became ill after a severe heart attack.
Vensel is the 10th U.S. patient to receive the device, and the second to be able to leave the hospital. Eight other patients have died.
Dr. Laman Gray, one of the surgeons who implanted the device in Vensel, said the LionHeart shouldn't be directly compared to other heart devices, such as the AbioCor artificial heart, because each has different applications.
With the LionHeart, "you have to have a pretty normal right side of the heart. You can't say one is better than the other," Gray said.
The AbioCor, first implanted in a patient at Jewish Hospital in July 2001, was the first fully implantable replacement for the human heart. The grapefruit-sized device is intended for patients with end-stage heart failure who have a 70 percent chance of dying within a month.
Vensel, a father of four, is taking blood thinner medication, but has few other pills to take daily, said Dr. Robert Dowling, a surgeon who helped implant the device. Dowling said Vensel has had no real problems in the three weeks he has been at his Louisville home.
In May, Gayle L. Snider, of York, Pa., became the first U.S. patient to receive the LionHeart device, undergoing surgery at Penn State University's Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
On the Net:
Arrow International: http://arrowintl.com