Man Receives State's First Artificial Heart Implant

Meghan McRoberts


Doctors at The Nebraska Medical Center recently completed their first- ever total artificial heart transplant.

42- Year-Old Greg Rathe is the first total artificial heart recipient in Nebraska.

Rathe had a heart transplant in 1996. His family says his condition has started to deteriorate over the last few years. Gene's doctors said he's had low blood pressure and shortness of breath as his donated heart is failing.

He's been receiving treatment at the Nebraska Medical Center for the last few weeks.

"It's nothing new," said Rathe's brother Mark Rathe. "But it's still tough."

Doctors said his best chance for recovery is another heart transplant. Rathe has been on a transplant list for six months, but Doctors say he couldn't wait much longer for something to buy him time.

"Our thought was that this would be the only technology that would save his life, so we decided to bring this technology to Nebraska," said Dr. John Um. Um helped implant the heart.

"It's an easy decision when they say you have two or three days to live, or an artificial heart," said Mark Rathe.

Because the surgery had never been done in the state, Doctors say the Hospital flew in a surgeon from San Diego to coach doctors at Nebraska Medical Center. They had two days to learn the eight- hour surgery, and execute it.

Rathe says he already notices a difference two weeks after the surgery. "More energy," he described.

The artificial heart, however, is only a temporary fix. Doctors expect he could have it for up to six months before he receives a permanent transplant.

Rathe says he's glad for the extra time it buys while he waits for a heart.

"It helps me take care of my son. He's only 4 so I can watch him grow up."

Doctors say this implant will mostly be used in the most severe cases, but they do expect to do a few each year.