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First Artificial Heart Recipient Dies

Aired November 30, 2001 - 16:17   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: We want to let you know that sad word has come in from Tennessee, that Robert Tools, who was the first recipient of an artificial heart, has now died. And our Rhonda Rowland will have that story when we come back.

I'm sorry, we have it right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RHONDA ROWLAND, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He led and ordinary life. He suffered a common affliction. And then, he made history.

On July 2, 2001, Robert Tools, then 58, became the first person in the world to let doctors cut his heart out and replace it with a fully implantable battery-powered artificial heart. Without the plastic and titanium heart, doctors gave Tools a slim chance to even survive a month.

He had exhausted all other medical treatments and was too sick to qualify for a human heart transplant. Within days of the operation, surgeons saw improvements in Tools' health.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Certainly, the progress with the patient has been extremely pleasing. And I think that it really surpasses any expectations that I have ever had.

ROWLAND: Doctors at first would not tell us his name. But seven weeks after the surgery, Robert Tools chose to tell the world why he took such a risk.

ROBERT TOOLS, FIRST ARTIFICIAL HEART RECIPIENT: I asked for it because I knew I had no more chances to survive.

ROWLAND: Doctors say Tools was very determined. It did not take long for him to get well enough to take excursions outside of the hospital, a true test that the avia-core (ph) artificial heart had the potential to restore a heart patient's quality of life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is phenomenal. It's what we had hoped for. But, you know, you often hope for the best possible scenario. You don't often get it. But in this case we got it.

ROWLAND: Tools worked hard to get strong enough to leave the hospital for good. He wanted to be home in Franklin, Kentucky for the holidays. When his doctors were getting ready to send him home, he suffered a major stroke that paralyzed the right side of his body, 135 days after his surgery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He started out with, in my opinion, a life expectancy of only a matter of a few days to live before we put the device in.

ROWLAND: With the artificial heart, Robert Tools lived four times longer than doctors told him he would have with the heart he was born with. His wife, Carol, says they had more fun during those last four months than in the two years he struggled with the weak heart, and that neither she nor Robert had any regrets.

Rhonda Rowland, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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