Pat O’Hara was losing hope. The 59-year-old Silver Lake resident was told he only had 3 to 4 months left to live and that he could not withstand the heart transplant needed to save his life.
Though the situation seemed bleak, through the help of an artificial heart, O’Hara was able to undergo the surgery that has saved his life.
When O’Hara first visited Indiana University Methodist Hospital in June 2013, he was extremely ill and weak.
“… (I had) blue fingertips due to a lack of sufficient blood flow,” O’Hara recounted in a personal writing. “At 59 years old, I needed a wheelchair or cane to get around … My cardiothoracic and transplant surgeon, Dr. I-wen Wang, told me that I had a good attitude to be a heart transplant patient, but with my poor health, I would not tolerate the surgery.”
O’Hara needed a way to build the strength necessary to undergo the surgery. With the help of IU Methodist Health Foundation, the local man became the first Indiana Syncardia Total Artificial Health recipient. The device replaced the functions of O’hara’s heart, allowing him to stay alive and build strength until an actual human heart became available.
In October 2013, O’Hara was fitted with a special backpack that contained the device, which acted as a pump for O’Hara’s heart. Though in the past, those using earlier versions of the device were stuck in a room due to the size of the pump being equivalent to a washing machine, O’Hara was able to be mobile while wearing the 14-pound backpack pump.
“My doctors told me that my artificial heart, portable heart pump and increased physical activity helped me to regain strength and organ function, which could potentially double the chance of survival following a heart transplant. Once I received a human donor heart in November, I had a new goal of being home in time for Christmas, and I was able to leave the hospital on Dec. 23,” he shared.
With the help of the transplant, O’Hara has been given the opportunity to watch his children and grandchildren’s lives unfold as well as get his life and freedom back. It has been 3 months since O’Hara’s transplant.
“Today, I’m feeling better than ever,” he wrote. “I’m stripping the paint off an antique dresser and fixing whatever breaks around the house — all while waiting for the weather to get better so I can go fishing. As for my time at IU Health, I would recommend it to anybody; everyone was great. They gave me my future; they gave me a new life.”