To “wear your heart on your sleeve” means to show your feelings to the world. It describes a person who hides nothing, and that emotional honesty makes them vulnerable. Stan Larkin didn’t wear his heart on his sleeve. He literally wore his heart on his back.
Stan survived and thrived for 555 days without a heart. He discovered he had heart disease when he was just a teenager. Stan was playing basketball when he suddenly collapsed. He was rushed to the hospital where he learned that he had a heart problem called familial cardiomyopathy. Stan’s little brother, Dominique, also had the same heart problem, which can cause sudden death.
Over the years, the brothers’ condition worsened. In 2014, they suffered total heart failure, and both needed artificial hearts while they waited for a heart transplant. Dominique received a heart in just five weeks, but Stan waited over a year and a half for an available heart.
Normally, patients with artificial hearts need to be hooked up to machines in a hospital. Stan broke new ground by leaving the hospital with a backpack that powered his artificial heart. Inside the backpack was a 13-pound battery-powered machine called the Freedom Driver. The aptly named Freedom Driver gave him the freedom to leave the hospital and even his house for up to three hours at a time. The pump on his back was connected to his artificial heart by tubes that exited his chest. It pushed air into his artificial heart, which pumped blood through his body.
Stan describes living with the artificial heart as an emotional rollercoaster, but the backpack helped. The freedom driver gave him the freedom to live a semi-normal life, playing with his three children and even playing basketball. His doctors say, ‘Stan pushed the envelope with this technology’ and thrived.
Stan’s life as a cyborg finally came to an end last month when a donor’s heart became available. His heart transplant was a success, and he said, “I got the transplant two weeks ago and I feel like I could take a jog as we speak. I want to thank the donor who gave themselves for me. I’d like to meet their family one day. Hopefully, they’d want to meet me.”