Living Well: Artificial Heart, Six Months Later


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Last May, we shared the story of a groundbreaking surgical procedure where a young man became the state’s first total artificial heart transplant recipient. 

Recently, we met back up with Chad Johnson as he still waits for a donor heart.

“It’s my baby. So wherever I go, it goes with me. As long as it’s pumping, I’m pumping,” Johnson says. 

It’s a sound Johnson is grateful to hear and one that reminds him that he’s still alive.

“I’m just glad to be here still,” he adds.

Along with his keys, wallet and phone, the 21-year-old doesn’t go anywhere without his backpack.

He’s been carrying it for 6 months and his girlfriend carries another bag full of batteries along with him.

In April a total artificial heart was the only option to save Johnson. 

He’s the first in Arkansas to receive it at Baptist Health in Little Rock.

“This device worked better than our expectations and we are extremely pleased with his progress,” says Steve Hutchins, Baptist Health Transplant Program Medical Director. 

It all started on a basketball court where Chad had a sudden death episode. He’s been waiting for the day to get back to playing the game he loves.

“Everyday, I wish I could just go to the gym,” says Johnson. 

Johnson has been on the transplant waiting list close to a year now and considers himself a living miracle.

“The Lord is going to make his way to bring me a heart so I’m just patiently waiting,” Chad says.

Because at the end of the day Chad feels like a winner to be able to stand here and play basketball again.

Doctors say the total artificial heart is a battery-operated device that has the same components as a real human heart.

Nearly 1700 total artificial hearts are being used across the world.

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