Man survives with new heart pump while waiting for transplant

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — About 20 Americans die every day waiting for organ transplants. Jeff Narron of Hoyt, Kan., knows he could have easily been one of them this year.

Narron is a biker and a banker who was perfectly healthy until early this year when fatigue set in. It turns out his heart was failing, likely because of a virus. By May, the 37-year-old was in dire straits.

“I should have been dead. I coded twice in Topeka, and I don’t remember any of that,” said Narron.

He was transferred to Saint Luke’s Hospital which has the only heart transplant program in the region. Dr. Mark Everley, a cardiologist, says Narron was so sick, he couldn’t wait for a donor heart.

“He actually had multiple organ systems that were failing,” said Dr. Everley.

Narron had a device called Heartware implanted to keep his heart pumping. It’s one of a new generation of pumps called ventricular assist devices. It fits onto the tip of the heart. The devices used to be as big as a hand. This one fits in the palm of the hand.

“They continue to get smaller and smaller to minimize the amount of operation the patient has to go through,” said Dr. Everley.

The device was connected to an external controller. Narron carried it and batteries in a fanny pack. His condition improved.

“I was able to go home,” said Narron.

On August 28, more than three months after he got the device, Narron got a call to come back to Saint Luke’s. A donor heart had been found for him.

“It’s everything,” he said.

And now?

“Like normal. His normal self with all his energy,” said his wife, Kristen.

Narron is expected to go home this week.

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