"We went to the fabric store and tried a bunch of different materials," said Dr. Billy Cohn.
Sitting next to Dr. Denton Cooley, who implanted the first artificial heart in 1969, THI surgeons Bud Frazier and Cohn explained how they rigged up their own artificial heart. They had to sew 2 turbine pumps together...So they hit the home improvement stores.
"We're using stuff from Home Depot, tile caulk from the bathroom department and drywall tape," Cohn said.
That was only for animal studies; now a new heart is made of medical grade components.
55-year-old Craig Lewis is an employee of the city of Houston. And until a year ago, doctors said, he was healthy. About 2 weeks ago, doctors gave him the new "Houston Heart".
Dr. Frazier says Lewis is improving. And he could go home with the artificial heart, but he'll have to carry its 2 batteries and 2 controllers around with him.
Some 800 people have temporarily lived with a form of total artificial heart since Dr. Cooley's first surgery 40 years ago. Cooley likes this new continuous flow heart, because he says it less painful to patients than current technology.
"I think it may represent a true milestone in the development of a total artificial heart," Cooley said.
The new artificial heart provides a continuous flow of blood into the system, using only two moving parts. Doctors Frazier and Cohn say it should last decades longer than the artificial hearts currently in use.