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Family, Friends React To Artificial Heart Transplant Man’s Death With PM-Artificial Hearts Bjt

April 25, 1985

LE ROY, Ill. (AP) _ Despite the death of artificial heart recipient Jack Burcham, the implant operation on the retiree was ″absolutely not″ a waste, Burcham’s son says.

Jack B. Burcham, the heart recipient’s eldest son, said late Wednesday that he was ″really devastated″ by the news of his father’s death and that his mother, Lavonne ″Jinx″ Burcham, was ″not taking it very well.″

Mrs. Burcham, married for 42 years to the man who became the world’s oldest and shortest-lived recipient of a Jarvik-7 mechanical pump, planned to return today to Le Roy to be with her family, Burcham said.

The retired train engineer who pinned hopes for an extended life on an experimental artificial heart died just 10 days after receiving the plastic- and-metal device. Beset by kidney problems ever since he received a heart April 14 and placed on dialysis twice this week, Burcham died at 9:48 p.m. Wednesday, said Bob Irvine, a spokesman for Humana Inc. in Louisville, Ky.

″I don’t feel it was the operation or the (artificial) heart...that caused the death,″ the younger Burcham said in a telephone interview. ″I really feel that Dad was probably too weak″ to have survived.

Burcham said his father’s condition was not as strong going into the transplant as doctors had indicated. Before the operation, doctors had said the elder Burcham was the strongest of the artifical heart recipients.

Was the operation a waste?

″I would say absolutely not,″ he said, adding he was glad his father was able to undergo the pioneering implant. ″I think everybody should have a chance to have a heart,″ he said.

The Rev. Bruce Calbreath of First United Presbyterian Church of Le Roy, said Burcham’s daughter, Vickie Copley, telephoned him late Wednesday to say her father had died.

″I was surprised, because we had been pulling for him kind of hard,″ Calbreath said, but added that the news didn’t totally catch him off guard because ″Vickie mentioned earlier in the day that he had not had a good night or a good day, and she was worried.″

″Jack and I were really great friends, I feel real badly about this,″ Mayor Jack Moss said shortly after hearing of Burcham’s death. ″I was watching M-A-S-H on TV when they broke in with a special bulletin.″

He said townspeople had been buoyed by recent news reports of Burcham’s progress, adding that his death ″really surprised everybody.″

Reached at home late Wednesday, police Chief James Sandage, a longtime friend of the Burcham family, said he hadn’t heard the news.

″I’m very shocked,″ he said. ″I thought things were going well.″

Calbreath, who had visted Burcham several times before the operation, said he did not think the implant was useless.

″Knowing Jack felt so strongly going into it - he wanted to go for it. Nobody put any golden guarantees on it. They knew it was experimental,″ the minister said. ″Thanks to those first people who had the courage to go for it - Jack included - they’ll make it easier″ for future artificial heart recipients.

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