Leroy Haynes no longer has his human heart. What now beats within and outside his body is a fully artificial heart.
Haynes’ own heart was too diseased to permit his survival. The 64-year-old’s artificial heart has manmade chambers that are Velcro-ed together inside his chest, and powered by an external air pump that he carries.
“It feels different, but I’m alive,” Haynes said.
Four months after his life-saving surgery at Advocate Christ Med Center, Thursday was a particularly good day for Haynes.
“Mr. Haynes is our first patient that we have implanted this device in who is about to go home,” Dr. Chadrick Cross, Advocate Christ Medical Center, said.
The retired postal worker will now join roughly four dozen other people in the U.S. who are living at home with artificial hearts powered by backpack style pumps called “freedom drivers,” which sound a bit like a train heading softly down the tracks.
Freedom drivers are far different than the huge pumps of the past that didn’t allow mobility, but the modern version is not the end all. Haynes’ artificial heart essentially buys him time. He remains on a list, hoping one day for a donor heart.
“Yes, our life is gonna change,” said Pat, Haynes’ wife. “It’s a new way of living, but we’re happy we have more time together. Quality time.”
“The journey may not have ended, but I’ve come a long way,” Haynes said.
Haynes has a strong bond with the doctors and nurses who have helped him on his journey, and his departure today was bittersweet.
“I can’t thank you enough. We’re just simple people. We’ve worked all our lives and it seems saying thank you is not good enough. I mean it very sincerely… from the bottom of my heart,” Haynes said, smiling and touching his chest. “There’s not a person that didn’t smile, give me encouragement, tell me I’m going home, and now that day has come.”