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His Artificial Heart Hums, Appetite Roars

November 06, 2001|Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Between big bites of collard greens and a cheese steak, the world's first recipient of a self-contained artificial heart thanked God on Monday for giving him the courage to make medical history.

"The biggest risk I have ever taken in my life was this risk, and it paid off big," said Robert Tools, 59. "I didn't get the courage from anyplace except from my religion, from my God."

He had lunch with Mayor Dave Armstrong at Big Hopp's Restaurant as part of a local promotion encouraging people to dine out to help the economy.

Tools' smile widened as a waitress placed in front of him a Philly cheese steak, collard greens, rice and corn bread. He ended the meal with lemon meringue pie. Tools' wife, Carol, ate a large salad.

One of his surgeons, Dr. Laman Gray Jr., ordered a cheeseburger and fries. Gray said Tools continues to make "fabulous progress" and will probably start taking longer trips from Jewish Hospital.

So far, Tools has visited a waterfront park, gone fishing and eaten at several restaurants around town.

Gray said Tools "can eat absolutely anything that he wants to," though, like most men his age, he will eventually need to watch his diet. Doctors have said Tools needs to put on at least 10 to 20 pounds before he can leave the hospital and return to his home in Franklin.

"I like food. My doctors don't think I like food because I don't eat enough. But give me the right thing and I will eat all of it," he said.

Tools received the artificial heart July 2 at Jewish Hospital. He was suffering from congestive heart failure, diabetes and kidney disease and was given little chance of surviving 30 days without receiving the operation.

Three other patients around the country have received the plastic-and-titanium AbioCor pump.

Tom Christerson, the second recipient, has suffered from high fevers that have affected his kidney and liver function, doctors said Monday.

Christerson, 70, was returned to a ventilator last week due to general muscle weakness that made breathing difficult.

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