State's first artificial heart recipient receives new heart

Arkansas' first artificial heart recipient Chadarius Johnson is recovering from heart transplant surgery at Baptist Health Medical Center in Little Rock. (KATV Photo)

He's a medical marvel.

Just four days after receiving a donor heart at Baptist Health Medical Center-Little Rock, 23 year old Chaderius Johnson is counting his blessings.

"I get to be normal again," he tells Channel 7.

Eighteen months ago, Chad's outlook wasn't so sunny. He had suffered a heart attack playing basketball and wound up in advanced heart failure. With no donor available, he became Arkansas' first recipient of the Syncardia Total Artificial Heart - a battery-operated device that contains the same components as a real human heart and serves as a bridge to transplant.

"When we implanted Chad, he was one of 25 in the United States," says Dr. John Ransom of Baptist Transplant Center. "And one of 50 in the world that had the total artificial heart in place."

While rare at the time, the artificial heart was also temporary.

Doctors at Baptist Transplant Center knew Chad would eventually need a new heart. And last Wednesday his life-saving phone call finally came.

"I was like, I'm ready. Let's go," he says.

The operation on Thursday, November 15th was a success.

"If he continues like this without complications," Dr. Ransom says, "he'll be active and pretty much do what he wants to do."

A recovering Chad is grateful - to his family, his girlfriend, and his doctors.

"I appreciate you for being on my side, supporting me, staying with me day by day," he told them as Channel 7 looked on. "I just want to thank you."

He's also making plans for the future. They include getting back on a basketball court, and going to Las Vegas.

"Me and my girlfriend, we're going to Vegas. We're going to Vegas!"

No one should bet against him.

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