A new 13-lb. compressor known as the Freedom Driver allows Stan Larkin to leave the hospital while he waits for a heart transplant

January 17, 2015 01:10 PM

Stan Larkin can hold his heart in hands, or carry it in a backpack.

The 24-year-old man from Ypsilanti, Michigan, is one of the first people to walk of out the hospital without a human heart, thanks to a 13-lb. compressor known as the Freedom Driver, reports USA Today.

The device is connected by two tubes to the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart that Larkin received in November to temporarily replace his own failing heart.

At 16, Larkin blacked out during a basketball game. He was rushed to hospital and later diagnosed with arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia, or ARVD, a disease that causes irregular heart rhythm and is one of the leading causes of sudden death among young athletes.

Doctors originally implanted a defibrillator to help Larkin’s heart keep going, but after several years, it wasn’t enough.

“One day it went off 26 times,” Larkin told USA Today.

In October, Larkin was admitted to the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center with a heart that was only operating at 15 percent.

While he waited for a transplant, Larkin was given an artificial heart. Originally the device was attached to 418-lb. compressor known as Big Blue, which kept the patient leashed to his hospital bed. But in June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the siginifcantly smaller Freedom Driver.

In December, Larkin was transferred over to the Freedom Driver, which is small enough to carry in a backpack. The change has given him the freedom to leave the hospital, see his children, celebrate the holidays and go to church.

Grateful to be back on his feet while he awaits a new heart, Larkin says the only thing about the compressor that took some getting used to is the sound. The device lets out a consistent, rhythmic series of clicks and whirs.

“I guess I tuned it out after about three days,”said Larkin, who couldn’t be happier having a heart that makes him feel healthy and mobile again.

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