STATES CHRONICLE – The SynCardia Freedom driver is responsible for keeping Stan Larkin alive for 555 days. The 25-year-old man from Michigan had been diagnosed with ARVD in his teenage years, and his situation only worsened over time.
At only the age of 16, Stan Larkin was diagnosed with arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia, or ARVD, after he suffered an attack on a basketball court near his house in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
ARVD is a hereditary disorder. The debilitating condition forces an irregular heartbeat, which in turn can cause sudden cardiac arrest. ARVD is estimated to affect, in average, one in 5,000 people and, when treated, it has a death rate of 3%.
In order to counter Larkin’s ARVD, doctors put a defibrillator in place. Its purpose was to apply small successive electrical charges to combat the irregular heartbeat. While Larkin’s condition had been addressed at the time, strenuous effort of any type was no longer a valid option for him. He had to give up basketball and always be careful with how much effort he took.
ARVD is a condition that only worsens with the passing of time, however, as the other ventricle begins to manifest similar arrhythmogenic dysplasia. This is called bi-ventricular dysplasia and stops half of the heart from pumping blood properly in the body. When Stan Larkin reached this stage, in April 2012, doctors decided he required a heart transplant in order to survive.
Stan Larkin’s O-positive blood type, the most common blood type, however, put him on a very long heart transplant list. It is estimated that an average of 22 people die daily while in the queue waiting for organ transplants.
Stan Larkin’s brother, Dominique, had also by this point been diagnosed with ARVD and had his own defibrillator installed. It would only be a matter of time until Dominique’s condition would worsen as well.
Affected by the bi-ventricular dysplasia, Stan Larkin was dying without a new heart. In November 2014, The doctors then decided to give him a fighting chance by removing the heart from his body and replacing it with “Big Blue.” Stan Larkin had been hooked up to a 418-pound machine which served as an artificial heart, pumping blood and regulating airflow in Stan’s body.
With his brother’s condition worsening, however, Stan decided to allow his brother to use Big Blue instead. He decided to risk it all and try out the newly US Food and Drug Administration approved younger smaller brother of Big Blue, the SynCardia Freedom driver.
The Freedom driver was connected through a series of tubes to Stan Larkin’s body. Since it weighs only 13.5 pounds, the Freedom Driver can be carried in a special backpack, only requiring minor periodic maintenance for it to function optimally continuously. The Freedom driver would keep Stan’s blood pumping for 555 days.
Even with the Freedom driver, Stan could not perform strenuous effort as he risked cardiac arrest. Nevertheless, he played with his kids and took care of his family as best he could.
While hooked up to the Freedom driver, Stan was able to give his position in the heart transplant to his brother. In January 2015, Dominique Larkin received his new heart while Stan continued to be hooked up to the Freedom driver.
After 555 days of not having a heart in his body, Stan Larkin’s name made it to the top of the transplant list, and he received a real heart.
Image Courtesy of SynCardia’s YouTube channel.