Ronald Fontana is discharged home while he waits for a matching donor heart transplant. He is enjoying his family, thanks to the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart powered by the Freedom Portable Driver.
A central New York recipient of a SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart implant is home, discharged from University of Rochester’s Strong Memorial Hospital with the Freedom® portable driver to wait for a matching donor heart.
Fontana, a 64-year-old retiree from a Syracuse architectural hardware company, suffered from heart disease—cardiomyopathy—for decades. He managed the condition with medications, an implantable defibrillator and a pacemaker.
Recently, the Camillus resident experienced ventricular tachycardia in which his heart would race until the pacemaker fired electrical pulses to normalize its rhythm. His doctors performed a procedure in February 2013 to fix the problem, but the condition returned.
By fall 2013, Fontana’s conditioned worsened. “It became apparent quite quickly that we couldn’t control it and we had to implant the Total Artificial Heart or he was not going to survive,” says Dr. Jeffrey Alexis, Fontana’s transplant cardiologist with the hospital’s Program in Heart Failure and Transplantation. The implant was performed Sept. 24, 2013.
Like a heart transplant, the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart replaces the diseased heart’s two failing ventricles and four heart valves. It is the only FDA, Health Canada and CE approved Total Artificial Heart for use as a bridge to transplant for people suffering from end-stage biventricular heart failure in which both ventricles can no longer pump enough blood for a person to survive.
“This gives him time to stabilize, to build his strength up, to be able to walk, to feel stronger,” says Alexis.
When Fontana became clinically stable, he was able to go home June 2, 2014 with the 13.5-pound Freedom portable driver, which powers the SynCardia Heart with precisely calibrated pulses of air and vacuum.
At home, Fontana spends time with his five grandkids, goes shopping and exercises on a treadmill.
“This machine, this artificial device is what’s keeping me moving,” Fontana told The Post-Standard in Syracuse.
Fontana has maintained his humor throughout. “I get a kick out of saying, ‘I’m a heartless SOB.’ I don’t have a heart.”
He also credits his wife, Toni, with keeping him motivated to get strong for his heart transplant.
“I’m still here and I’m glad for that,” he told the newspaper. “I have a lot of life left to do.”