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Artificial Heart Patient Takes Spin

September 26, 2001

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) _ The first recipient of a self-contained artificial heart has been doing well enough to make trips outside the hospital in a van, his doctors said Tuesday.

``We are trying to make fairly routine trips into the city,″ University of Louisville surgeon Dr. Laman Gray said. ``He absolutely loves doing that.″

On Robert Tools’ first trip outside the hospital last week, he went to Louisville’s Waterfront Park, then had a special request on the way back to the hospital.

``He wanted to stop by the White Castle for a cheeseburger,″ Gray said. He ate some of the burger but wasn’t up to finishing it, Gray said.

Before Tools’ history-making surgery July 2 at Jewish Hospital, he was so weak he could take only a few steps at a time and couldn’t raise his head to talk to his doctors.

Gray and Dr. Robert Dowling performed a second artificial heart implant Sept. 13, on Tom Christerson.

``His heart, like Mr. Tools’, has functioned flawlessly,″ Dowling said Tuesday.

The titanium and plastic pump is made by Abiomed Inc., of Danvers, Mass. The AbioCor has no wires or tubes protruding from the chest. An internal battery and controller are implanted with the heart. An external battery powers the device by passing electricity across the skin.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved implanting the experimental device in five patients, all dying of heart failure and too sick to qualify for human heart transplants.

Gov. Paul Patton met with both patients Tuesday. ``I was probably more interested in seeing them than they were in me,″ he said.

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