LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A 60-year-old artificial heart recipient opened his eyes Saturday for the first time after implant surgery complicated when doctors had to replace the first mechanical pump with a smaller model.
Walton Jones Jr. of Louisville, who was in surgery for 10 hours Friday, was listed in critical but stable condition Saturday in the coronary care unit at Humana Hospital-Audubon, hospital spokeswoman Donna Hazle said.
The artificial heart, powered by compressed air, was functioning at about 100 beats per minute, and his blood pressure was normal, she said.
"The nurses report that Mr. Jones did very well throughout the night and he is waking up this morning," Hazle said.
Jones, who had suffered two heart attacks and was given a pacemaker to regulate his heart's rhythm, is the oldest patient to get an artificial heart as a bridge to a human heart transplant, Hazle said.
She said Jones will remain on the Jarvik-7 pump until a decision is made either to seek a donor heart for a transplant, or to implant a permanent artificial heart.
Jones' operation was prolonged by complications that forced artificial heart pioneer William DeVries to implant two of the mechanical devices.
DeVries had begun implanting a Jarvik-7-100 artificial heart but it was too big, so it had to be removed and replaced with a smaller version of the heart known as the Jarvik-7-70, Hazle said.
"The larger heart blocked the drainage from the lungs when Dr. DeVries began to close the chest" about noon Friday, Hazle said at a briefing Friday night. "They had to redo every aspect.
"It's the longest operation we have done, and yes, it was because we had to make the change," she said.
Jones had not been placed on the national organ donor network as of Saturday, but he is a potential transplant candidate.
Jones, a photographer and uncle by marriage of "60 Minutes" correspondent Diane Sawyer, is the fourth person to receive a Jarvik-7 artificial heart at the hospital.
It was DeVries' first implantation of a Jarvik-7 artificial heart in 2 1/2 years.