Artificial Heart Implant Marks A First For West Coast

By Kristine Lazar

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Wednesday marked a historic day in medical history with the first person on the West Coast going home from a hospital with a Total Artificial Heart.

With her husband, Dale, by her side, Tammy Lumpkins walked out of Keck Hospital of USC with part of her heart on her back.

“Just through this on my back and go,” she proclaimed.

The 46-year-old is the first on the West Coast to go home with a Total Artificial Heart implant. Two-thirds of her own heart was removed and replaced with a plastic one, hooked up to an air compressor that fits into a backpack.

“If I wanted to live, this is what I had to do,” she said.

Lumpkins was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy 20 years ago.

When she came to USC in August, her heart was failing and her organs were shutting down. She had gained 60 pounds of water weight. She was too sick to wait for a transplant.

“When we put this device in, she was probably a matter of days to a week away from dying,” said Dr. Michael Bowdish, a cardiothoracic surgeon.

Lumpkins feared she would die before watching her son graduate in December.

“I wanted to see him have his own family… So for me to miss that, I didn’t want to do that,” she said with tears in her eyes.

In the past when a patient received an artificial hear, they were hooked up to a machine weighing more than 400 pounds, making it impossible to leave the hospital.

Lumpkins’ pack weighs only 15 pounds, which means that she can not only go home – she can be mobile.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do first. You know, it’s like, there is so much that I’ve missed out on,” she said.

One thing that she has already crossed off her list is renewing her wedding vows to her husband of 22 years. They did that in the hospital.

“We needed to do this, because I wanted to make sure that her new heart loved me as much as her old heart did,” her husband, Dale, said.

Once Lumpkins regains her strength, she will be placed back on the transplant list. But people have lived with a Total Artificial Heart for as many as six years.

In the meantime, Lumpkins plans to hit the mall, go for a walks and travel to Disneyland.

“You know, even if I just get to go see Tinker Bell, Mickey and Minnie, I’ll be happy”

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