Thanks to a revolutionary surgery, a former firefighter from the Czech Republic has become the first man to live without a heart for six months, reports say.
(Credit: Caters News)
Jakub Halik is one of the first people in history whose heart has been removed and completely replaced by mechanical pumps.
He is also reportedly only the second person to have had his heart totally replaced with a pulseless artificial heart. The first person -- a man from Texas named Craig Lewis -- died a few weeks after surgery in 2011.
According to Reuters, Halik had his heart removed in April after an aggressive tumor was found growing inside it.
The father of one was reportedly unable to undergo a standard heart transplant at the time as the drugs required for recovery cannot be taken by cancer patients.
So, a Czech medical team, led by cardiologist Jan Pirk, decided to replace the organ with two mechanical pumps. The operation, which took place at the Institute for Clinical and Experimental Medicine (IKEM) in Prague, lasted eight hours.
"It was hard for me but I didn't have any other chance at all," Halik said of the revolutionary surgery at an August press conference. "It was acknowledged that with the tumor I can survive for about one year and I decided to fight and do it this way."
Since the surgery, Halik has been confined to a wheelchair, and due to the absence of a beating heart, he has no pulse. But other than that, the 37-year-old says, he is practically back to normal.
"I have no pulse anymore," he said, according to Reuters. "This is the only difference but otherwise I am functioning like a healthy man at present."
Halik added that he would like to return to his work as a firefighter if that becomes feasible, writes Czech news website Aha Online.
"Mr. Halik has a very strong personality and I am satisfied with the result. We didn't know how it will go on and from the very beginning it was not easy, his health status was very serious and only thanks to the systematic hard work of the whole team of doctors and nurses Mr. Halik is now in this good condition. He is doing his best, he is training hard because after two months of laying on bed the muscles are getting weak and he has to make them stronger now," Halik's doctor, Jan Pirk, said in August of his patient's extraordinary progress.
Halik has been placed on the waiting list for a heart transplant. The average wait for a heart at IKEM is reportedly eight months.
Though Halik's recovery has been going smoothly thus far, doctors have noted that they are unsure as to how long he can survive without a real heart.
"Every day, a number of infectious complications or embolism could arise," said Pirk, according to Czech news website iDNES.com.
Dr Ivan Netuka, IKEM's cardiovascular surgery department's deputy director for research and science, concurs.
"Experience confirms that the lifetime of [artificial] pumps is 5 or 10 years. But from a biological viewpoint, it's hard to answer the question," Netuka told Czech health website Medical Tribune.
Clarification: This article has been amended for clarity. While a handful of other people have had their hearts completely replaced with artificial ones in the past, Jakub Halik is reportedly only the second in history to have received a pulseless artificial heart.