New device keeps heart beating until transplanted

Close -up of a human cardiovascular system(Photo: Purestock, Getty Images/Purestock)

GRAND RAPIDS — Marv and Carol Vandermolen’s home sits quietly in a town just outside of Kalamazoo.

“By the time I retired, I knew there was a problem," said Marv, who learned that problem was cardiomyopathy -- a condition of heart disease that causes the heart to become weak and enlarged.

The heart became so large and so weak it just couldn't sustain him. What they thought was going to be a peaceful and calm retirement became anything but -- Marv needed a heart transplant.

After two years of waiting, Marv was getting a second chance at life, something that brought tears to the eyes of his wife when she learned the news.

"When the heart came it was just a miracle," she said.

But there was a complication.

Marv's heart had grown to nearly three times the size of a normal human heart, which meant it would take much longer for the transplant surgery.

“When you take a heart out of a body and put it on ice what it basically does is it dies slowly," said Dr. Martin Strueber, a transplant surgeon with Spectrum Health. He says there is a window of four hours from donor to recipient for a heart transplant, and he knew he would need more time. Continue reading

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