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Heartless but not defeated: Man lives without a heart for 555 days

Stan Larkin’s fascinating story on living with an artificial heart

Imagine having no pulse and a foreign apparatus inside your body acting as one of your main organs: the heart. Stan Larkin knows how this feels. For more than a year, the 25-year-old had to carry around a gray backpack, which held a 13-pound artificial heart known as the Freedom Driver. It was keeping him alive.

“It’s feels just like it says … freedom,” said Larkin.

Two tubes beneath Larkin’s rib cage connected the artificial heart to the power source in the backpack.

Larkin began having trouble nine years ago when he suddenly collapsed on the basketball court while playing a game of pickup. He was born with cardiomyopathy, a life-threatening genetic disease that causes the heart muscle to become enlarged. As time progresses, if the disease goes untreated, the heart loses its ability to pump blood through the body and maintain a normal heartbeat. This can lead to heart failure or arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats).

Larkin’s real heart was removed from his body in November 2014. He received a heart transplant on May 9 at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center, making history as the first patient in Michigan to test the new medical equipment before his surgery.

His younger brother, Dominique, also had the disease. Both brothers functioned with the artificial heart, but Stan Larkin was able to function for much longer than his brother, who was hospitalized for six weeks with the device before receiving a human heart.

Dr. Jonathan Haft, a cardiac surgeon at the University of Michigan, operated on both brothers. Now, Stan Larkin is recovering from his procedure.


Kelley Evans is a digital producer at Andscape. She is a food passionista, helicopter mom and an unapologetic Southerner who spends every night with the cast of The Young and the Restless by way of her couch.