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'I'm a Heartless SOB' Jokes Patient Discharged from Strong Memorial Hospital without a Human Heart

TUCSON, Ariz., July 22, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- A central New York recipient of a SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart implant is home, discharged from University of Rochester's Strong Memorial Hospital with the Freedom® portable driver to wait for a matching donor heart.

Fontana, a 64-year-old retiree from a Syracuse architectural hardware company, suffered from heart disease—cardiomyopathy—for decades. He managed the condition with medications, an implantable defibrillator and a pacemaker.

Recently, the Camillus resident experienced ventricular tachycardia in which his heart would race until the pacemaker fired electrical pulses to normalize its rhythm. His doctors performed a procedure in February 2013 to fix the problem, but the condition returned.

By fall 2013, Fontana's conditioned worsened. "It became apparent quite quickly that we couldn't control it and we had to implant the Total Artificial Heart or he was not going to survive," says Dr. Jeffrey Alexis, Fontana's transplant cardiologist with the hospital's Program in Heart Failure and Transplantation. The implant was performed Sept. 24, 2013.

Like a heart transplant, the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart replaces the diseased heart's two failing ventricles and four heart valves. It is the only FDA, Health Canada and CE approved Total Artificial Heart for use as a bridge to transplant for people suffering from end-stage biventricular heart failure in which both ventricles can no longer pump enough blood for a person to survive.

"This gives him time to stabilize, to build his strength up, to be able to walk, to feel stronger," says Alexis.

When Fontana became clinically stable, he was able to go home June 2, 2014 with the 13.5-pound Freedom portable driver, which powers the SynCardia Heart with precisely calibrated pulses of air and vacuum.

At home, Fontana spends time with his five grandkids, goes shopping and exercises on a treadmill.

"This machine, this artificial device is what's keeping me moving," Fontana told The Post-Standard in Syracuse.

Fontana has maintained his humor throughout. "I get a kick out of saying, 'I'm a heartless SOB.' I don't have a heart."

He also credits his wife, Toni, with keeping him motivated to get strong for his heart transplant.

"I'm still here and I'm glad for that," he told the newspaper. "I have a lot of life left to do."

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SynCardia Systems, Inc. in Tucson, Arizona is the privately-held owner and manufacturer of the world's first and only FDA, Health Canada and CE approved Total Artificial Heart for use as a bridge to transplant for people suffering from end-stage biventricular heart failure in which both ventricles can no longer pump enough blood for a person to survive.

More than 1,300 implants of the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart accounts for over 400 patient years of life on the device. Since January 2011 more than 400 SynCardia Hearts have been implanted.

The youngest patient to receive a SynCardia Heart was 9 years old; the oldest was 76 years old. The longest a patient has lived with a SynCardia Heart was nearly four years (1,374 days) before receiving a successful donor heart transplant Sept. 11, 2011.

SynCardia Systems also manufactures the Freedom® portable driver, which powers the SynCardia Heart while allowing clinically stable patients to leave the hospital and live at home and in their communities. The wearable Freedom driver has been used by more than 175 patients, accounting for over 100 years of support.

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SOURCE SynCardia Systems, Inc.
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