The Heart That Moves With You

March 23, 2016  //  FOUND IN: News

Michael Richard at Hands-On Museum

As he waits for a heart transplant, Michael Richards uses a heart device with wearable technology that only U-M Frankel Cardiovascular Center patients can take home with them.

“I was a nervous wreck,” the 25-year-old said, describing the first time he and his family changed the battery for the backpack-sized device that controls his heart.

When most people hear “wearable technology,” they think of fitness trackers and enhanced glasses. The total artificial heart works on a higher level — allowing heart patients independence as they wait for a heart transplant.

It’s often used when end-stage heart failure affects both sides of the heart and other more common heart-supporting devices are inadequate to keep patients alive.

The 14-pound Freedom® Driver, which Richards carries in a backpack, powers the total artificial heart with precisely calibrated pulses of air. The U-M is the only Michigan heart program to send patients home with the wearable technology.

Before SynCardia Systems, Inc. developed the portable driver, patients would have to stay in the hospital connected to a washing machine-sized power driver for months as they waited for a heart transplant.