The backpack Chad Washington is wearing keeps his artificial heart pumping at home. He can even charge it in any outlet. The 35-year-old received a heart transplant earlier this year, but his body rejected it. Doctors at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center gave him an artificial heart while he waits for another transplant.
"I'm thankful to be alive," Chad said. "I'm thankful for everything."
Most transplant patients spend months in the hospital connected to a large machine. But Chad was given the opportunity to try an experimental portable system.
"Being able to go home and be a family in a normal setting is huge, it's gigantic, and it's a fantastic feeling," he said.
The implant is a little more than half the size of a normal adult heart. The backpack attaches to tubes and sends a constant flow of pressurized air to the artificial heart, giving it the power it needs to pump blood throughout Chad's body.
Dr. Mario Deng of Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center says the device gives patients a better quality of life.
"Living with his heart at home, being able to be with his wife and kid, makes all the difference," he said.
The device is an early Christmas present for Chad's family.
"We have quite the journey ahead of us right now, but we have a lot to celebrate," wife Kara said. "A lot to be thankful for."
They're hopeful they'll get an even better gift in the new year, when Chad receives another transplant.
Chad is just one of 13 patients taking part in the study testing the artificial heart at home.
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