Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Memorial Monday (on Tuesday) - Barney B. Clark, D.D.S

Jan. 21, 1921 - Mar. 23, 1983
He was the first fully artificial heart transplant recipient, having recieved (sic) it in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1982, and died 112 days post transplant.
Photo added by Ron Moody

From the biographical sketch included in the description of the Barney B. Clark papers held by the University of Utah Marriott Library Special Collections:
In June of 1954 (Clark) was informed by his physician that he had contracted a case of hepatitis. Unknown to him, this was to be the first in a long line of illnesses that would plague is (sic) life from time to time. Due to his smoking habit, he eventually contracted emphysema (May 1978); and then there was the idiopathic cardiomyopathy which deteriorated the muscle in his heart.

In 1980, Dr. Clark was referred to Dr. Jeffery Anderson for treatment. Dr. Anderson tried to manage his condition medically. The treatment included administration of digoxin, furosemide with potassium supplementation, warfarin, captopril, prednisone, azathioprine, and a trial of the investigational new inotropic drug amrinone.

Unfortunately, all of these drugs proved unsuccessful in preventing further cardiac decomposition.

Dr. Clark was first introduced to the artificial heart in 1982 when he went to visit the animal research barn, and he went home to Seattle to decide on the surgery with his family. But (his wife) Una Loy knew right from the start that he was going to do it. Although he did want to help advance the medical research, what he really wanted was a much better quality of life than he had been experiencing the last few years. He truly believed that this artificial heart would give that to him; and it probably would have, if he hadn't been suffering from so many other problems. He was admitted to the University of Utah Medical Center for the transplant at the end of November in 1982. He signed the consent form, required by the Institutional Review Board (twice), and then due to complications, he went into surgery earlier than expected.

Even though the operation was successful, they had a lot of problems at the start.

First, he developed an air leak in his lung that had to be corrected surgically. Then, he suffered from seizures of an undetermined nature. Next, there was also a broken valve on the left ventricle of the artificial heart that had to be repaired. And finally, due to the necessary anticoagulant, he suffered from terrible nose bleeds which also had to be fixed surgically.

Even though preparations were made for him to go home at the end of April, he never made it. He suffered from aspiration pneumonia in early March which sent him back into the ICU, and he never left it again.

On March 21st, Dr. Clark suffered from reduced renal function that induced a high fever. And on March 23rd, he suffered from multiple organ system failure that caused a circulatory collapse which killed him at 10:02 that night. It wasn't the artificial heart that killed him, it was everything else that was going wrong with him at that time.

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