Jakub Halik, a former firefighter lived without a pulse for six months after undergoing pioneering surgery in April when doctors removed his heart and replaced it with mechanical pumps, according to The Sun.
On April 3rd, Halik became the second man to undergo the revolutionary procedure after the first patient, Craig Lewis, died a few weeks after surgery in Texas in 2011. The father-of-one had been in peak physical condition until he collapsed and doctors found an aggressive tumor growing inside his heart.
Doctors had told Halik that he wouldn’t survive a heart transplant because he wouldn’t be able to take the necessary drugs prescribed afterwards because of his cancer. Halik, who is from Neratovice in the Czech Republic, was left with no other choice but to undergo a risky operation to remove his heart completely and replaced with a fake one until he could recover from the cancer.
“It was hard for me but I didn’t have any other chance at all. It was acknowledged that with the tumor I can survive for about one year and I decided to fight and do it this way,” Halik told reporters at a press conference 148 days after his operation, according to Reuters.
Surgeons at the Institute for Clinical and Experimental Medicine in Prague spent eight hours operating on Halik. They had implanted two 20cm pumps with propellers into Halik’s chest.
Each propeller had the ability to spin at 10,000 rotations per minute to mimic the pumping action of the organ. The pumps were designed to perform the separate actions of the left and right side of the human heart. One of the devices pumps blood to the lungs while the other sends oxygenated blood back to the circulatory system.
However, the only thing they cannot replicate is the pulse. “I don’t even realize it, because the functions of the body are the same, only my heart is not beating and I have no pulse anymore,” Halik said. “This is the only difference but otherwise I am functioning like a healthy man at present.”
The pumps were powered by batteries that last between eight and 12 hours before they need to be recharged. After the surgery Halik’s heart had deteriorated rapidly and tests showed that he had internal bleeding and kidney failure. His muscles had also started to weaken and he lost a lot of a lot of weight.
Despite his rapidly deteriorating body, Halik was able to make a remarkable recovery and is “doing extremely well” says Head Surgeon Jan Pirk. Halik, who is currently on the waiting list for a heart transplant, said his life had been transformed after the surgery. “It was a massive relief when I was told the surgery had gone well and everything was okay,” Halik said. “I’m used to it all now. I don’t even realize I don’t have a heart anymore.”
“I feel great though. It’s amazing to think I’m functioning like a completely healthy man when I don’t even have a heart,” he added.