Lance Edward White, 49, has been a Total Artificial Heart (TAH) patient for twenty-six months and counting after being diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) in 2014.
Earlier this year in January, my family and I were freaking out about the unfamiliar TAH. We had just learned about the device a few hours before my dad's emergency scheduled surgery. To provide aide, our Mechanical Circulatory Support (MCS) coordinator shared Lance's contact information, offering an option to speak with someone living with the mechanical device. That night, Lance kindly took our phone call and made time to speak with my family and other families listening in on speaker phone in the freezing ICU waiting room. He assured us that life with a TAH can allow a 'new normal' life. Lance's encouraging and positive perspective gave us a true sense of relief. Hearing someone alive and well, living with the TAH was exactly what we needed in order to get through the shocking and traumatizing reality.
Fast forward a few months, on May 3, we coincidentally met Lance during a standard check-up appointment. It was exciting to meet him in person, the voice of reason who helped us overcome the mental obstacle of the Total Artificial Heart. We gave each other hugs and high fives. My family left clinic as Lance started his appointment. "See you next time," we said.
That same day, Lance was admitted to the hospital and placed on the list as Status 1A, the most urgent and highest priority. Reason being, the plastic tubes (cannulae) coming out of his abdomen had hardened after being in use for so long (over two years). Risking further cracks in the tubes would require open artificial-heart surgery with a risky TAH replacement or none at all.
Two months into his hospitalization, on June 18th, Lance got the call. Finally! Lance would get his much deserved heart transplant! He was prepped for surgery, intubated and put under anesthesia. Hours later, he woke up in the ICU... but without a new heart. While in the operating room, his surgeon and team made a difficult decision, not to proceed with the transplant. Lance stands over 6' tall which requires a larger heart for someone his size, and this particular organ was not big enough. Although initially disappointed, Lance is glad his surgeon and team made the decision they made. Choosing life is better than receiving a non-compatible or un-healthy organ. Today, Lance continues to wait for his heart at the hospital, while staying in shape and inspiring other patients and friends.
Right now, Lance lives in a hospital room until a donor heart becomes available. Everyday, he speed walks three miles through the hospital hallways with an on-duty nurse who is also required to carry a 17lb. back-up device and batteries. To pass the time, Lance reads, studies Spanish, follows sports, watches the news, visits patients and lifts weights. He even stopped by the waiting room while our Dad was in surgery for transplant on June 26th.
"I am currently in the hospital awaiting a heart transplant. I stay steadfast and strong, waiting to start my new life and to spread the word about the new technological advances to help heart patients. My journey has been long, but fruitful. I've been able to inspire others, to think and dream about what they can do, not what they can't. The TAH has allowed me to have a platform to realize and encourage everyone to live life to the fullest."
We hope Lance gets his heart before his 50th birthday at the end of this year. With all the publicity and awareness he has helped provide for the TAH, Lance deserves more than anyone to retire his machine and move on with his second chance at life. He looks forward to playing basketball, swimming and traveling once he gets to transplant.
Read about and watch Lance's feature by CBS News here.