Nebraska’s 1st SynCardia Total Artificial Heart Patient Bridged to Transplant at Nebraska Medical Center

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42-Year-Old Greg Rathe Says, “I Feel Like I’m 16 Again,” with New Donor Heart & Kidney

Nebraska Medical Center, Greg Rathe, Total Artificial Heart, artificial heart, SynCardia, donor heart, heart failure, donor heart rejection, heart transplant

Nebraska’s first SynCardia Total Artificial Heart recipient, Greg Rathe, received a dual heart/kidney transplant at The Nebraska Medical Center on May 17, 2013.

We knew if we didn't move forward with the Total Artificial Heart, Greg would not survive.

For the second time this year, Greg Rathe’s medical history has made state history. The 42-year-old father of two, who became Nebraska’s first patient to receive the SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart in March, recently became the state’s fifth patient to receive a dual heart/kidney transplant.

"I feel perfect. I feel like I'm 16 again," said Rathe, who received his dual transplant at The Nebraska Medical Center on May 17.

It was the second heart transplant for Rathe, who received his first donor heart in 1996 after a sudden onset of viral cardiomyopathy, a weakening of the heart muscle. After 17 years of life with his first transplant, his symptoms returned earlier this year when his body began to reject the donor heart. In March, Rathe’s condition became critical when he lost consciousness and collapsed.

“We knew if we didn’t move forward with the Total Artificial Heart, Greg would not survive,” said John Um, MD, surgical director of cardiac transplantation and mechanical circulatory support at The Nebraska Medical Center.

To save Rathe’s life, on March 14, Drs. Mike Moulton and Um performed the state’s first implant of the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart. Two months later, Rathe received the news he’d been waiting for, that a matching donor heart and kidney had become available.

“I don’t know why it’s happened to me twice,” said Rathe, who has a tattoo on his right forearm commemorating his first heart transplant. “But I feel extremely lucky.”

Rathe says he plans to get two more tattoos in a year or so, one for the Total Artificial Heart implant and one for his second transplant. In the meantime, he began cardiac rehabilitation on June 24, and has a lot to look forward to.

"Smiling and laughing. Fishing, hunting, my son, my daughter,” he said. “That's just about everything.”


About the SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart

SynCardia Systems, Inc. (Tucson, AZ) is the privately-held manufacturer of the world's first and only FDA, Health Canada and CE approved Total Artificial Heart. Originally used as a permanent replacement heart, the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart is currently approved as a bridge to transplant for people suffering from end-stage heart failure affecting both sides of the heart (biventricular failure). There have been more than 1,100 implants of the Total Artificial Heart, accounting for more than 300 patient years of life on the device.

Similar to a heart transplant, the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart replaces both failing heart ventricles and the four heart valves. Unlike a donor heart, the Total Artificial Heart is immediately available at SynCardia Certified Centers. It is the only device that eliminates the symptoms and source of end-stage biventricular failure.

The Total Artificial Heart provides immediate, safe blood flow of up to 9.5 liters per minute through each ventricle. This high volume of blood flow helps speed the recovery of vital organs, helping make the patient a better transplant candidate.

Forbes Ranks SynCardia #69 Among “America’s Most Promising Companies”

In its February 2013 issue, Forbes selected SynCardia as one of "America's Most Promising Companies" for the second consecutive year. On the list of 100 privately held, high-growth companies with bright futures, SynCardia was selected #69, moving up eight spots from its #77 ranking last year. See the full list of SynCardia Awards & Recognition here.

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Don Isaacs
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