HomeThis week in historyThe First Artificial Heart

The First Artificial Heart

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Today in 1982 the First Artificial Heart was implanted into Barney Clark a 62 year old dentist from Seattle USA. At the time this was a medical breakthrough. Although artificial hearts had been used since 1952 during heart surgery this was the first permanent implant. The world watched on eagerly following the surgery with over 350 reporters camped out in the hospital. The operation was widely viewed as being as important as the moon landing. The implanted heart was named Jarvik-7 named after physician and inventor Robert Jarvik, MD). The surgeon performing the operation was Dr William DeVries who was a Cardiothoracic Surgeon.

When Barney woke up after the surgery and started looking around, Dr DeViries asked Barney, ‘how do you feel, do you have any pain?’ He said ‘no pain’ but that he was aware of a strong heart beat in his body for the first time in a long time. Then he looked up at his wife, Una Loy, and said, “I want to tell you even though I have no heart, I still love you.”

Barney’s bravery and commitment to help others has left a legacy and pioneered more medical research in this field. Before the surgery Barney said: “I’ve been kept alive for the last four years through all kinds of medicine and therapies that other people have given their lives to inform me; now, it is my time to pay them back.”

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