Tulsa Man Kept Alive With Artificial Heart

Tuesday, November 19th 2013, 7:07 pm
By: News 9

He is possibly a walking miracle but it has all been thanks to medical breakthroughs. Augustus "Gus" Harbert was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure more than five years ago. Harbert thought he was a dead man walking, until he took a drive down the turnpike where a team at INTEGRIS Baptist in Oklahoma City told him about the LVAD.

The LVAD (Left Ventricular Assist Device) literally pumped blood through Harbert's body, essentially replacing his heart. He was the first patient at INTEGRIS to receive the pump and one of only 200-250 people in the world to live with one for more than five years. The device gave Harbert a new lease on live.

News 9 was at Harbert's check-up Tuesday afternoon.

"It's humming away brother. Humming away," said Dr. Douglas Horstmanshof, Co-director, advanced cardio care. "Sounds great."

Harbert received the first LVAD in March 2008. It was a large device that made enough noise it could be heard wherever he went. Eventually, doctors developed a smaller, quieter pump and replaced the original.

When Harbert was first diagnosed with CHF, he said he did not take the news well. He would have to make major changes to his life in order to stay alive.

"He's the only reason why I decided to do it, really," he said about his now eight year old son, Cameron. "It's a wakeup call. I didn't take the best care of myself."

Harbert has been working on losing weight to get onto the heart transplant list. Dr. Horstmanshof said there was no reason for Harbert not to reach those goals. In the meantime, the pump will do its job to keep him alive.

"The HeartMate II device has not yet been run to failure in a human being. The current estimates are at least ten years and perhaps even longer," Dr. Horstmanshof said.

There have been 16,000 patients who have received LVADs and many only use them temporarily until they can get a heart transplant. The longest currently being used has been in a patient for eight years.

Harbert said he would make the changes need so that he can see his boy grow up.

"That's the motivation. Seeing him get older, graduation, college. All that," Harbert said.

Harbert said that the LVAD has brought his quality of life back.