The real thing

Artificial heart recipient finally receives transplant

Last Friday, Linda Sloan got the call she'd been waiting a year to receive.

Doctors at University Hospital in Denver found a matching donor for her, but to receive the heart, she needed to get from her ranch near Maybell to an operating table in Denver in 3 1/2 hours.

Thanks to a state patrol escort, Sloan arrived in time to undergo the 11 1/2-hour surgery. Complications placed her in critical condition Wednesday, said Diane Gould, Sloan's daughter. But on Thursday, Gould said her mother was making progress.

One year ago, Sloan suffered a major heart attack. A series of subsequent heart attacks led to the destruction of 97 percent of her heart, Gould said. Sloan became the first woman to receive an artificial titanium heart at University Hospital in Denver. The artificial heart was intended to keep her alive until a real heart became available.

Sloan moved to the top of the list of patients needing a heart transplant -- an average wait of two to six months. Unfortunately, Sloan had one detail working against her -- her rare O-negative blood type.

Type O-negative often is considered a universal donor, meaning people with any blood type can usually accept O-negative blood transfusions. Unfortunately, though people with the universal blood type can readily donate blood, they can only accept blood or organs from others with the same blood type, Gould said.

"We waited and waited and waited," Gould said, explaining that her mother's blood type is only shared by 7 percent of the world's population.

"The only thing they will tell us is that it's a young heart from the Southwest," Gould said. The only way they will find out more is if the donor's family decides to tell them, she said.

During the past year, Sloan had to be extremely careful to steer clear of static electricity. Microwaves, computer screens, remote control cars and vacuum cleaners could cause her artificial heart to stop. Her activities were very limited because whenever she was inside, a 10-foot cord connected her to the nearest outlet. Power outages at her ranch in Sunbeam were yet another hurdle, one she overcame with batteries and a manual pump.

"The community has been awesome," Gould said. Piles of cards are a daily reminder to the family that they are not alone.

"I look at life a lot differently," Gould said of her life after her mother's heart attack. "Life is very short. It has brought our family together."

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