Artificial heart patient honored
during American Heart Walk
Family celebrations, American Heart Walk
mark one-year anniversary
Louisville, KY – A family party
in Central City, the start of the American Heart Association Walk
and a reception with Jewish Hospital and University of Louisville
staff marked the one-year anniversary for Tom Christerson’s
AbioCor heart surgery.
Mr. Christerson underwent surgery Sept.13,
2001, becoming the second person in the world to receive the AbioCor™
Implantable Replacement Heart, manufactured by ABIOMED, Inc.,
of Danvers, Mass. Mr. Christerson is now the longest living and
only surviving AbioCor heart recipient. He is also the first artificial
heart patient to go home.
Mr. Christerson began the weekend-long
celebrations with a reception at Jewish Hospital Rudd Heart and
Lung Center on Sept. 13. Among the guests were his family; University
of Louisville surgeons Laman Gray, M.D., and Robert Dowling, M.D.;
University of Louisville Research Lab staff; Frazier Rehab Institute
therapists; and Jewish Hospital nurses, aides and nutritionists.
The gathering gave the many people involved in the project the
opportunity to celebrate with and honor Mr. Christerson.
The Tom Christerson and Family Nursing Scholarship
established in his honor was also announced that day. The Grand
Lakes Yacht Club established the scholarship to recognize the outstanding
nursing care Tom and his family received while he was a patient
at Jewish Hospital.
On Saturday, Sept. 14, Mr. Christerson joined the
American Heart Association for its annual walk. Mr. Christerson
was invited to walk by a team of nurses from the Jewish Hospital
Telemetry Monitoring Unit, where he stayed for several weeks while
recovering from his surgery. The team included Mr. Christerson,
Jewish Hospital nursing staff, his friends and several members of
his family, including his great-granddaughter Ellen Thomas Binkley.
Together, the team sounded the horn to begin the walk at Kentucky
Mr. Christerson returned home to Central City for
a Sunday celebration party with his family and friends. “We
wanted to thank all of those who helped us through my dad’s
surgery and recovery,” said his daughter, Patti Pryor. “Our
friends visited us, kept us in their prayers and sent cards and
e-mails. We wouldn’t be celebrating this anniversary without
their help and support.”
His physicians also praised Mr. Christerson and his
“Tom and his family joined us in this journey
a year ago today. I couldn’t be more pleased with the strides
he’s made. He has a tremendous family, and together they’ve
done great things. Thank you, Tom. We’re proud of you all,”
Dr. Gray said.
“Tom is truly a hero. He has surpassed every
goal we set when we started this project last year. He and his family
have our utmost respect and admiration. They are all heroes. I am
proud to know them, and to be a part of their lives,” said
Mr. Christerson said he’s glad for the second
chance he has been given, and he plans to continue enjoying his
time with family and friends.
“I get up, I go have coffee, and then I go back
home and just do whatever I choose. I get to go to the boat, I have
a good wife that takes care of me, my daughter, my son, my grandchildren
and great grandchildren, and I’m just scooting back and taking
it easy. … It’s so much easier to live, breathe and
I don’t know, I am looking forward to doing great things in
For more information and updated photographs, please
log onto www.heartpioneers.com.
Jewish Hospital is among the premier heart 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.