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SynCardia Total Artificial Heart Makes Maryland Man Strong for His Ailing Wife
The 1st Maryland Resident to be Discharged from the Hospital without a Human Heart Turns to Caring for His Wife During Her Own Health Crisis
Michael Oliver, 45, a power and utility professional for the United States Navy, was visiting family in June 2011 when he couldn't catch his breath while out skateboarding down hills. He thought he was suffering from heat exhaustion.
Two days later he went to an emergency room near his Lexington Park, Maryland, home and was diagnosed as having suffered a mild heart attack. Further tests at affiliated MedStar Washington Hospital Center showed Oliver had a ventricular septal defect, or a hole in the wall between the heart's two ventricles that pump the blood, the result of an undiagnosed congenital condition. Because Oliver's condition continued to decline, he was sedated and his doctors put him on ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) and added his name to the waiting list for a donor heart.
After three weeks on ECMO, Oliver was transferred to Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Medical Center in Richmond, Virginia, a leading SynCardia Certified Center since 2006. On July 22, 2011, he was implanted with the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart.
When Oliver awoke from surgery and realized he was implanted with the SynCardia Heart, he teared up at the sound of his wife's voice telling him he was on the device. "It was like you're thankful you're here, but kind of awestruck by the situation," Oliver recalls. "I was really thankful because there was no other alternative for me."
Similar to a donor heart transplant, the SynCardia Heart is the only device that eliminates the source and symptoms of end-stage biventricular (both sides) heart failure.
On Sept. 21, 2011, Oliver was the first Maryland resident to be discharged from the hospital without a human heart. He was able to do so with the wearable Freedom® portable driver, which powered his SynCardia Heart using precisely calibrated air pulses.
He says he particularly looked forward to sleeping in his own bed at his Maryland home and seeing his beloved chocolate Labrador retriever, Weston, which he hadn't seen since his hospitalization in June.
Oliver received a donor heart Dec. 10, 2011, at VCU Medical Center and was released from the hospital 21 days later.
Ronda Oliver, 42, who took time off from her job as an administrative assistant at a school to care for her husband, suffered a health crisis of her own when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2013. Now it was Michael's turn to take on the caregiver role.
"I believe it's all part of the plan," Oliver says. "If I didn't have the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart available, I wouldn't have been there to take care of my wife."
"I believe in the technology and I wish I could buy stock in the company," he adds.
Ronda's cancer-free now and both are back to work. Michael's experience has changed his outlook on life. He's become more spiritual and wants to spend more time with family and friends. "You've got to enjoy every moment," he says. "You have to say to your spouse that you love her every day."
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