Artificial heart transplant patient shares experience

A steady clicking rhythm coming from the machine attached to his chest is the sound of life pumping through the veins of 41 year old Alfred Williams.

"I'm more excited to get it than I think they are to give it to me," said Williams.

Williams, a truck driver from Baton Rouge, received the first total artificial heart transplant in the Gulf-South Region after his own heart failed.

The father of five was behind the wheel when he says he felt odd and had trouble breathing.  He pulled over and called 911.

"By the time EMS got there I'd gone through the seizure. Then they gave me oxygen to get into the ambulance and then they started monitoring my heart more," said Williams.

It turns out Williams had an enlarged heart.  He needed a transplant, but his chances of surviving long enough to receive one was slim. However, doctors at Ochsner had another option: A total artificial heart transplant.

Williams qualified for the surgery, and began focusing on his goals.

"Get well, get a transplant and see my daughter graduate high school and go onto nursing school," he said.

A team of surgeons and doctors prepared for two months before attempting the 8 hour surgery in which both ventricles in the heart were replaced with a small plastic pump.

"Until now, a lot of these patients were just either being subjected to medical therapy or with the failure of medical therapy they would be subjected to go to hospice. We were very excited that we had the availability of this pump," explained cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Aditya Bansal.

"They allow the patient to rehab, to get better for the next surgery, in this case he's going to need one," said the head of Heart Failure and Transplant Dr. Hector Ventura.

Before the surgery, Williams was bedridden for months.  Within two weeks of the artificial transplant, he was walking around the ICU. Two months after the surgery, Williams is out of the ICU and on the list to receive a permanent organ transplant.

Williams says this whole experience has changed his views on organ donation.

Now his entire family has registered as donors and he says he will as soon as he is able.

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