- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 10, 2002

Craving a lobster dinner, a man with an experimental cork-sized pump in his heart became the first person in the United States to return home with the small, lightweight Jarvik 2000 pump.
"I'm feeling terrific," Woodrow Snelson, 63, said before walking out of the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore on Friday with his wife, Barbara. "I just have a lot more energy, a lot more stamina, than I had a couple of months ago."
Mr. Snelson, who had a severe heart attack in 1989 and triple bypass surgery, received the pump Sept. 6 as part of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration feasibility study. Almost 30 U.S. patients have received the pump.
While waiting for a heart to become available, Mr. Snelson said he planned to enjoy the holidays, and watch birds and squirrels in the back yard of his Burtonsville home.
The pump fits inside the heart's left ventricle, the organ's main pumping chamber. When the heart can no longer pump properly, the tiny turbine takes over the ventricle's work and pushes oxygenated blood through the body.
Dr. Robert Jarvik, the pioneer who invented the device, said the pump is smaller than others and designed to work with the heart, rather than take over the heart's workload.
"It's a true assist," Dr. Jarvik said Friday. "We let the natural heart do as much as it can on its own, and we add to it only as much as is needed."
That, he said, enables the patient's natural heart to exercise and improve. He also said it takes less energy and uses a lighter battery.
Dr. Bartley Griffith, the lead cardiac surgeon at the center, said Mr. Snelson could only go for about 30 seconds without the pump at first before he was ready to pass out.
Now, Dr. Griffith said, Mr. Snelson could hold out for more than three minutes, an FDA requirement for Mr. Snelson returning home.
"My vision for this device is that it has a better-than-even chance of qualifying as a device that could be viewed almost like pacemaker: that simple, that available for patients with end-stage heart disease," Dr. Griffith said.
The pump has a speed-control device on a small, external battery pack that Mr. Snelson can use to adjust the flow of blood through his body.
The battery pack is connected to the pump by a wire that comes out of the abdomen.
Dr. Stephen Gottlieb said Mr. Snelson is still severely limited physically but that now he can spend time with his family without constantly being short of breath.
The device is in the middle of an FDA pilot study to determine the device's safety. It was designed to last as long as 10 years, and its small size could allow its use in small adults and children.
"I hope that a subsequent study might help further evaluate the role of this device as a permanent device," Dr. Griffith said.
Patients with similar ventricular assist devices have been allowed to go home, but Mr. Snelson is the first with the Jarvik 2000 in the United States.
Patients who have received the pump in Europe have been discharged after surgery for about two years.
The device is often used in Europe as a permanent supplement to a diseased heart. In the United States, it is being used as a temporary bridge to keep a patient alive as he waits for a transplant.
Dr. Jarvik plans to apply for approval for lifetime use in the United States, he said. "It's a different regulatory environment, but the FDA has not turned us down," he said.
Mr. Snelson said he would like to start working again as a computer consultant after he gets a new heart.
"Until I really feel comfortable at home everything is going to be fairly calm. Take it, again, a day at a time," Mr. Snelson said outside the hospital.

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