Inside 1982's Artificial Heart

Chris Higgins
YouTube // The New York Times
YouTube // The New York Times / YouTube // The New York Times

In 1982, retired dentist Barney Clark became the first human to receive a permanent artificial heart. Dubbed the Jarvik-7 after lead inventor Dr. Robert Jarvik, the artificial heart had already shown some promise in animal trials (earlier models had kept cows alive for hundreds of days). Unfortunately for Clark, the Jarvik-7 was supported by a gigantic external machine, which meant that although the heart was "permanent," its patient was effectively hospital-bound...permanently. Clark survived 112 days, and much of that time was horrific.

The second Jarvik-7 patient, Bill Schroeder, lived 620 days on the device. Schroeder had the heart implanted in 1984, and initially his experience was a lot better than Clark's, though eventually his condition deteriorated after suffering blood clots and strokes. More than 30 years later, artificial hearts are still totally a thing, though now they're considered a bridge to a heart transplant, rather than a viable long-term solution.

The New York Times put together a fascinating Retro Report on the artificial heart, its history, and its lasting legacy today. Prepare to learn some history and meet people currently living with artificial hearts:

If you prefer your reporting in written form, this writeup is excellent and covers the same ground.