An unnamed teenage boy sat in his hospital bed, awaiting death as his muscles slowly degenerated into oblivion. He was perhaps days away from death when doctors decided on a radical procedure. The 15-year-old in question suffered from Duchenne syndrome, a disease which causes rapid muscle degeneration but does not provide eligibility for a heart transplant. That’s just the way health care works. After weeks of watching a otherwise healthy kid slip closer and closer to death, doctors took matters into their own hands.
In a 10-hour operation, surgeons implanted the teenager with the first ever permanent robotic artificial heart. The artificial heart acts as an electrically activated hydraulic pump, surgically installed in the boy’s thorax. His new heart is powered by a battery he wears on his belt, connected to a plug which was implanted behind his ear. The boy’s new heart will provide him with 20-25 more years of ‘normal’ life, that he otherwise wouldn’t have experienced. That’s a first kiss. That’s marriage. That’s having children. That’s life. But maybe most importantly, that’s plenty of time for science to come up with another long-term answer.