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Artificial Heart Patient Dies

artificial heart recipient Robert Tools.
AP
Robert Tools, the first person to receive a fully self-contained artificial heart, died Friday after suffering a setback a day earlier. He was 59 and had lived with the device for 151 days.

Tools, 59, went into multi-organ system failure after he developed bleeding in his abdominal area Thursday, according to a statement from the Jewish Hospital in Louisville.

"Bob became a dear friend to all of us," Dr. Robert Dowling, one of the doctors who implanted the softball-sized device, said. "We will miss Bob's laugh, his sense of humor and his fighting spirit."

"I didn't want to die," Tools said in August. "Nobody wants to die. If you're a fighter you do what you do best and I fought and I fought and I fought."

Tools, a retired telephone company worker, was suffering from congestive heart failure, diabetes and kidney disease before receiving the artificial heart on July 2 at the Jewish Hospital. He had been given little chance of surviving 30 days without the surgery.

His bleeding was attributed to the anti-coagulation problems he experienced as part of his severe and chronic medical condition, the statement said.

The statement said Tools began bleeding on Thursday, Nov. 29 and went into multi-organ system failure late Thursday. The bleeding he experienced was unrelated to the stroke he suffered November 11 and the deterioration in his condition was not due to an AbioCor device malfunction, according to the hospital.

As recently as early November, Tools was able to have collard greens and a cheesesteak during a luncheon outing with Louisville's mayor. He had recovered enough to make frequent day excursions outside the hospital, including a fishing trip, and doctors had said they hoped he could be home for Christmas.

That changed when he suffered the stroke. Blood-thinning drugs are often given to patients to prevent the clots that can cause strokes, but Tools could not be given high doses, because such drugs can also cause internal bleeding.

Since Tools received the heart, five other patients also have received one, including a man who died earlier this week at a hospital in Houston.

In August, Tools said he had a choice "to stay home and die or come here and take a chance. I decided to come here and take a chance."

"I realize that death is inevitable, but I also realize that if there's an opportunity to extend it, you take it," he said.

His son, Carlin Tools, said his father exhibited great strength and courage, that of a champion, reports Rob Foshee of CBS affiliate WLKY-TV. His wife Carol said if he hadn't come to Jewish Hospital he would have faded away slowly at home, but instead he did come and made a difference for mankind. He enjoyed some of the favorite things in life and experienced a little notoriety, and nothing could have been better.

Doctors had said early on that strokes were among the risks for the artificial heart patients. The AbioCor was designed with a smooth plastic lining to decreasthe chance of blood clots forming.

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