Man lives with mechanical heart

Heart Mate II / Photo by: Chad Douglas

The last eleven years have not been the best years of Mike Price's life.

Price, who lives in LaBelle, Missouri, had his first heart attack in 1998, at the age of 30!

Since then he's had five more heart attacks, a stroke, stents put in his heart, and a triple bypass surgery.

Now he's on a waiting list for a heart transplant, and he's only 41.

When a doctor listens to Mike Price's heart through a stethoscope, the doctor doesn't hear a heartbeat. He hears a whirring sound. That's because of this machine, the Heart Mate Two Left Ventricular Assist Device, or LVAD.

"It's basically a mechanical assist device so it's taking over the function of his heart. It's giving him good heart function around 30 to 40 percent," says Dr. Rishi Ghaneker with Quincy Medical Group.

Before getting the machine, Price's heart function was around 10 to 15 percent. In fact back in 2002 when he had his second heart attack and eventually the bypass surgery, he got some really bad news from his then doctor.

"He said I was not going to live three months. That got me crying and really upset," says Mike Price.

After the bypass, Price says he was doing pretty good. But late last summer, Price went into full cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated. That's when doctors knew a heart transplant is what Price needed. Until that happens, this machine keeps him alive.

"What this pump does is basically serve as a bridge to support his heart function until he gets a heart transplant," says Dr. Ghaneker.

While this machine gives Price a lot of his quality of life back, it still has its obstacles.

"It's a lot of work. It wears on your shoulder. It's heavy. But they are working on getting a smaller one that's newer and lighter. The battery set lasts longer," says Price.

Price says the hardest part is remembering to change the batteries. That has to be done every six hours. At night, he can plug the machine in so he can get a good night's sleep. In the meantime, he waits for the call for a new heart and the chance to get the sound of his heartbeat back again.

Heart problems run in Price's family.

His mother died of heart disease at the age or 43.