In 2011, Craig Lewis was on the verge of losing his life after having developed amyloidosis—an extremely rare autoimmune disease that obliterates your heart, kidneys and liver.
A one-of-a-kind life-saving device
But when Dr Billy Cohn and Dr Buz Frazier found out about the man's pressing condition, they decided to step in and test-drive their latest gadget to save the man's life. The device in question used whirling rotors to pump blood around the body without a heartbeat. In other words, their innovative invention would effectively be able to replace a human heart in order to pump blood to the rest of the body.
The doctors, from the Texas Heart Institute, had first tested their life-saving device on 38 calves, who all responded well to the two centrifugal pumps placed inside their bodies. Dr. Cohn explained what the gadget was made up of in order to be able to be well received by a human body:
Dacron on the inside and fiberglass impregnated in silicone on the outside. There's a moderate amount of homemade stuff on here.
He further explained:
We look at all the animals, insects, fish, reptiles and certainly all mammals, and see a pulsatile circulation. And so all the early research and all the early efforts were directed at making pulsatile pumps.
The pulsatility of the flow is essential for the heart, because it can only get nourishment in between heartbeats. If you remove that from the system, none of the other organs seem to care much.
An unfortunate outcome
Ultimately, the patient was able to live without a pulsating heart for a little over a month, but his condition degenerated to such a degree that the rest of his organs failed him. He died shortly after his kidneys and liver stopped working.
Despite the man's death, the two doctors said the device itself worked as it was intended to.