TOM CHRISTERSON ENJOYS EVERYDAY LIFE IN CENTRAL
World's Second AbioCor Patient Spending
Time with Family and Friends
CENTRAL CITY, Ky. - The morning's conversation
bounced around local politics, a recent boxing match, horse racing
and much good-natured ribbing. A dozen or so men have gathered
around the same table at a local restaurant for the past several
years trading jibes and opinions. Such everyday activity is what
Tom Christerson worked so hard to regain.
On September 13, 2001, Tom Christerson
became the world's second recipient of the AbioCor Implantable
Replacement Heart, manufactured by ABIOMED, Inc. of Danvers, MA,
in a landmark surgery performed at Jewish Hospital by University
of Louisville surgeons Laman Gray, M.D., and Rob Dowling, M.D.
Background footage of Tom Christerson
in his hometown of Central City, Ky., and of Dr. Dowling discussing
the AbioCor Implantable Replacement Heart will be up-linked via
satellite coordinates Ku-Band SBS 6, Transponder 5, Horizontal
Frequency 11823 MHZ, 74 degrees West. The audio frequency is 6.20/6.80.
The signal will be available from 2:15-2:45 p.m. (EDT), Tuesday,
Christerson made history again on April
16 when he became the first artificial heart patient to go home.
He now spends his days breakfasting with friends, catching up
on the local gossip at the barbershop and enjoying his family.
He has also celebrated the birth of his great-granddaughter, Ellen
Thomas, named in his honor.
"Just getting here, going over
to the coffee shop and seeing my buddies," has made the months
of recuperation worthwhile, Christerson said. "I've been
with my friends, I see them every morning. I've talked to the
barbers to see what's going on around town. They know everything.
If you don't believe me, just ask them."
When Christerson came to Jewish Hospital
in September, he wasn't expected to live more than 30 days. He
chose the only option available for him, the AbioCor artificial
Asked what he would tell others who
are considering a similar surgery, Christerson said: "I'd
say do it. I wouldn't hesitate to tell them to go ahead and get
He joked about the small red bag he
uses to carry his battery pack everywhere he goes. "I'll
live with it the rest of my life. I guess I'll have to get me
two or three different colors so I won't be carrying the same
one all the time. You can get color coordinated."
Drs. Gray and Dowling are pleased with
Christerson's progress, and with the first year of the clinical
"He's home, enjoying life. One
of the things that was interesting is after he was sent home,
we did not get any calls. He went home and has done great. I insist
on him coming to Louisville for weekly office visits but he doesn't
think he needs to be seen by a doctor," said Dr. Dowling.
"We couldn't be more pleased with
Tom's progress," added Dr. Gray. "Watching him return
to his home and family has been a thrill for everyone involved
in the project."
The physicians noted that the year
since the first patient was implanted with an artificial heart
on July 2 has been an exciting one. Bob Tools became the world's
first patient to receive an AbioCor implantable heart on July
2, 2001, during surgery performed by Drs. Gray and Dowling at
Jewish Hospital. Tools lived with the device 151 days.
"If we look at the goals, we said
before we got into this what are our realistic goals. If we put
this artificial heart into patients that are so sick that they're
not going to live 30 days, one of our realistic goals was to have
one of the patients survive 60 days. Well Bob Tools lived for
about five months. Tom Christerson is now nine months and living
home. This is unprecedented. No one has ever gone home with an
artificial heart before. He's having a good quality of life,"
Dr. Dowling said.
"The success of the artificial
heart project has exceeded our expectations. We are very much
interested in continuing this study. We are still screening potential
candidates," Dr. Gray said. "People interested in more
information should ask their cardiologists to call our office."
The next milestone for Christerson
is getting back into the swing of his card games and becoming
a regular at his houseboat. Christerson said he wants to "get
out into our second home, down to the lake where we've got a houseboat.
Then we've got a third home at Lake Malone, too, a cabin up there.
So we've got all kinds of
Jewish Hospital is among the top 10
cardiac centers in the United States and, along with the University
of Louisville, is dedicated to excellence in clinical care, research
and education. University of Louisville surgeons at Jewish Hospital
have performed many heart care "firsts," including Kentucky's
first heart transplant, the world's first heart transplant following
the use of a Thoratec bi-ventricular assist device, the world's
first endoscopic saphenous vein harvest and the first ventricular
remodeling in the region.