Second man gets rare artificial heart transplant

Saturday, September 15, 2001

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Doctors followed up the success of the world's first self-contained artificial heart implant by putting the experimental device in a 70-year-old former tire dealer.

The surgery was conducted Thursday at Jewish Hospital by the same doctors who first implanted the device in Robert Tools on July 2. That procedure, also performed at Jewish Hospital, was considered an overwhelming success as Tools, 59, continues to improve.

Hospital spokeswoman Barbara Mackovic identified the second recipient as Tom Christerson, 70, of Central City, Ky., but no details about his medical history were released.

"It's just a miracle," said Scott Ray, vice president of First National Bank in Christerson's hometown of Central City and a family friend. The hospital would not comment on Christerson's condition Friday morning, but Ray said he had been in contact with the family minister and he was doing well.

University of Louisville Dr. Laman Gray Jr., who performed the surgeries along with Dr. Robert Dowling, told The Courier-Journal of Louisville that unlike Tools, Christerson had never had a previous heart surgery. Christerson does suffer from kidney problems, the paper reported.

The surgery "went extremely well," Gray said.

Christerson is a retired tire dealer who loves barbecue and shrimp and is a longtime NASCAR fan, friends told The Courier-Journal.

"I saw him about three weeks ago at the barber shop, and he looked like he always did, and he never complained about his health," said Mayor Hugh Sweatt, who has known Christerson for 30 years. "It kind of floored me when I heard he was going to get the heart."

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