MINNEAPOLIS — Mary Lund emerged from a coma Thursday, sat on the edge of her hospital bed and was startled to learn that she has an artificial heart. Doctors upgraded her chances of survival to better than 50-50.
Lund, 40, the first woman to receive an artificial heart, got a mini-Jarvik 7 device on Dec. 18 after a virus suddenly destroyed her heart muscle, leaving her near death.
Lund, who lapsed into a light coma after the surgery, did not remember that doctors told her before the operation that she would receive the artificial heart until a human heart could be transplanted, said Dr. Fredarick Gobel, spokesman for Abbott Northwestern Hospital.
"She was startled when we told her," Gobel said at a news conference. "She opened her eyes quickly and widely."
The doctor said she sat up for only five minutes and was helped while she moved her arms and legs. She still was listed in critical but stable condition.
Gobel said doctors estimated that her survival chances are better than 50-50, but he refused to speculate on exactly how much better. A week ago, doctors put her chances at less than 50-50.
"She is still very fatigued and spends much of her time sleeping, but she arouses quickly at the voice of her husband" or those of doctors, he said.
Kidney Recovery Is Key
Gobel refused to speculate on when Lund would be ready to have the artificial heart replaced with a human heart. He said her kidney function still is not normal and that she remains on a respirator most of the time to help her breathe. She will not be considered for a human transplant unless her kidneys recover, he said.
"We hope to wean her from the respirator soon," he said. "She has been off for 15 minutes at a time, but she gets tired and is put back on."
No Longer Has Fever
She no longer has a low-grade fever, Gobel said, and her breathing is normal when on the respirator. But doctors fear that she might develop pneumonia and are giving her antibiotics, he said.
In addition, doctors are concerned about the possibility of internal bleeding because of her low platelet count, but so far no evidence of that has been found, Gobel said. Platelets facilitate clotting.
"The brain has recovered," he said. "We hope all other organs, including the kidneys, will recover as well."