In March of 2011, Craig Lewis, 55, was dying from a heart condition that caused build-ups of abnormal proteins, and not even a pacemaker could help save his life.
But two doctors from the Texas Heart Institute proposed a revolutionary new solution – install a ‘continuous flow’ device that would allow blood to circulate his body without a pulse.
Dr Billy Cohn and Dr Bud Frazier installed the device after removing Mr Lewis’ heart. Within a day, the patient was up and speaking with physicians.
Heartless: Craig Lewis, 55, was the first man to have a ‘continuous flow’ pump to replace his entire heart – and now has no pulse
No heart: The device uses blades to circulate blood through the body, replacing the heart
The two doctors had developed the device some time before and had tested it on nearly 50 calves.
They removed the animals’ hearts, and by the next day, the calves were doing everything they were the day before – eating, sleeping, and moving – but this time, without a heart pumping blood through their bodies.
‘If you listened to (the cow’s) chest with a stethoscope, you wouldn’t hear a heartbeat,’ Dr Cohn. ‘If you hooked her up to an EKG, she’d be flat-lined.’
Mr Lewis’ amyloidosis was getting worse, and doctors feared he would die soon without necessary efforts. Doctors grimly said he had 12 hours to live.
Revolutionary: Drs Billy Cohn, left, and Bud Frazier, right, invented the ‘continuous flow’ device and successfully installed it in Mr Lewis
Raising your pulse: The device, Dr Cohn says, has a ‘moderate amount’ of homemade materials in it
So, with the permission of Mr Lewis’ wife Linda, Dr Cohn and Dr Frazier installed the heart in March 2011.
‘I listened and it was a hum, which was amazing. He didn’t have a pulse.’
-Linda Lewis, wife of first man to receive artificial heart
The device works by supplying a continuous flow of blood through the body, using blades to move it along.
Dr Cohn said it contains ‘a moderate amount’ of homemade materials.
An incredible short directed by Jeremiah Zagar shows the journey of the world’s first heartless man in stunning detail.
His feature length documentary In A Dream was nominated for two Emmy’s in 2010.
According to NPR, thousands of patients – including former Vice President Dick Cheney – have similar ventricular assist devices, though it only assists an already beating heart.
Process: The incredible medical procedure was documented by Emmy Award-nominated director Jeremiah Zagar
Mr Lewis’ wife was astonished when she tried to listen for his pulse. ‘I listened and it was a hum, which was amazing,’ she told NPR. ‘He didn’t have a pulse.’
The Texas Heart Institute said that prior to having the revolutionary new device installed, Mr Lewis was reliant on a dialysis machine, a breathing machine, and an external blood pump.
In March of 2011, Texas Heart Institute president Dr James T. Willerson called it ‘medical history in the making.’
Craig Lewis, a 55-year-old Texas man, lived for five weeks without a pulse. He died due to underlying disease – but doctors said the heart worked perfectly.