Man who had artifical heart for 112 days set to leave hospital


by Lucy Bustamante, 13News Now

Posted on December 12, 2013 at 7:00 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 12 at 7:20 PM

NORFOLK- They call it "Big Blue."  

It's not Old Dominion University's mascot - it's a machine that supports an artificial heart.

60-year-old Jack Jones of Nashville, Tennessee is alive today because of "Big Blue" and will walk out of Sentara Heart Hospital this week.

Jones was visiting Hampton Roads in July when he had hear attack.  He lived on an artificial heart for 112 days until he received a human donor heart on November 13.

His cardiologist, Dr. Katherine Leitz, says using an artificial heart temporarily is becoming a more feasible option  for people waiting for a donor heart.  

Right now, she says, more than 100,000 people on the waiting list and only 2.200 transplants happen each year.

Jones is one of the lucky ones - for many reasons.

Sentara is one of only 40 centers in the country that can install and support an artificial heart. Jones and his wife Mary feel very lucky they were here when the attack hit.


"We were probably in the only place in the world where we could have lived through this," Mary says.  

At first, his artificial heart was supported by Big Blue. Then he got on the "freedom driver," a device that allowed him to become more mobile.  

Jones is the fifth artificial heart recipient at the Sentara Heart Hospital this year but only the second to have been given the "freedom driver."

He says he looks forward to accomplishing a lot with his second chance at life. 

"I don't have a bucket list. I have a 50-gallon drum list," he says. 

Jones will be transferred to Vanderbilt Hospital under the care of one of Dr. Leitz's friends. 

Developers hope that "freedom driver" patients one day will be able to leave the hospital and live a normal life.  The Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve that stage of use.