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Pat's Run: 'Tin Man' Completes 3rd Consecutive Run Without His Native Heart

TUCSON, Ariz., May 3, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- As a teenager, an active and athletic Randy Shepherd twice contracted rheumatic fever, which damaged his heart. He continued enjoying sports and recreation throughout his life.

But by June 2013, Shepherd's heart was giving out and he was a few hours or days from death. On June 20, 2013, the Mesa, Arizona resident received a SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart (TAH-t). Like a heart transplant, the SynCardia TAH-t is the only approved device that eliminates end-stage biventricular (both sides) heart failure.

On April 29, 2014, Randy Shepherd made history by being the first person to enter and complete a public long distance run (4.2 miles) with the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart powered by the Freedom(R) portable driver.
On April 29, 2014, Randy Shepherd made history by being the first person to enter and complete a public long distance run (4.2 miles) with the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart powered by the Freedom(R) portable driver.

When Shepherd became clinically stable with the SynCardia TAH-t implant, he received the Freedom® portable driver, which allowed him to be discharged from the hospital to wait for his matching donor heart at home.

Watch the 1:58 video and see pictures of Randy Shepherd in Pat's Run

He started an exercise regimen that included lifting weights and walking. His wife, Tiffany, went with him on half mile-long walks around the neighborhood and on desert trails.

In 2014, Shepherd wanted to challenge himself and prove that he was fit enough to do Pat's Run with the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart. The Tempe, Arizona, event honors fallen soldier and NFL player Pat Tillman.

On April 26, 2014, Shepherd walked the 4.2-mile course with Tiffany, completing the course in one hour and 40 minutes. He carried the 13.5-pound Freedom® portable driver in a backpack the entire length of the run.

"My feeling was that I can't believe I had done that," says Shepherd, who was known by friends and the public as the "tin man." "I was a bit unsure of myself, but I was amazed that I had done it."

After 15 months of support with the SynCardia Heart, Shepherd received his donor heart transplant September 15, 2014 and was discharged from Banner-University Medical Center Tucson on October 8.

He credits the SynCardia TAH-t for allowing him to build muscle that strengthened him for the transplant. "I had that reserve to get up and get around," he says.

Last year, he fulfilled a promise that he would be back to participate in the April 25, 2015 Pat's Run, with or without a donor heart. With his donor heart and accompanied by his then 17-year-old daughter, Krista, he completed the course in about 58 minutes, keeping a jogging pace for about half of the race.

It turned out it was not his donor heart that slowed him down, but aching knees. "My knees hurt like crazy," he says. "Cardiovascularly I felt great."

This year, despite pulling a calf muscle shortly after the race began, Shepherd, 42, completed the race with Tiffany.

"Before I received the SynCardia Heart, I always thought that there would be another time for things like Pat's Run," says Shepherd. "With my second chance at life I have learned to live my life better.

"Last year (2015) I never doubted I could do it," Shepherd says. "I had a feeling of accomplishment that time, rather than astonishment the first time. 2016 will not be my last race. You'll see us next year among 35,000 other participants."

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About the SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart
SynCardia Systems, Inc. in Tucson, Arizona is a medical technology company focused on developing and manufacturing the SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart (TAH-t). The SynCardia TAH-t is an implantable system designed to assume the full function of a failed human heart in patients suffering from end-stage biventricular (both sides) heart failure.

The SynCardia TAH-t is the only total artificial heart that is commercially available in the United States, European Union and Canada for use as a bridge to donor heart transplantation.

More than 1,580 implants of the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart account for over 530 patient years of life on the device. Since January 2012 more than 600 SynCardia Hearts have been implanted.

The youngest patient to receive a SynCardia Heart was 9 years old; the oldest was 80 years old. The longest a patient has lived with a SynCardia Heart and received a successful donor heart transplant was nearly four years (1,373 days).

SynCardia Systems also manufactures the Freedom® portable driver, which powers the SynCardia Heart while allowing clinically stable patients to be discharged from the hospital and live at home and in their communities. The Freedom® portable driver has been used by more than 275 patients, accounting for over 180 patient years of support.

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