Heart Health
Heart Transplant Patient Celebrates Nearly 15 Years of His '2nd Life,' Thanks to the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart
Jun 11, 2014 - 9:55:21 AM

( - TUCSON, Ariz., June 11, 2014 -- Scottsdale, Arizona resident Bill Wohl is still going strong after he nearly died of heart failure 15 years ago, but received a second chance at life made possible by the SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart as a bridge to a donor heart transplant.

From March to September 1999, Wohl was in and out of the hospital as his heart began to fail. He was in need of a heart transplant, but was too sick to be on the waiting list.

With his heart and vital organs failing and no matching donor heart available, doctors at the University of Arizona Medical Center removed Bills dying heart and implanted the SynCardia Heart on Sept. 16, 1999. Wohl lived for 159 days on its support until he received a donor heart transplant Feb. 22, 2000.

Similar to a heart transplant, the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart replaces both failing heart ventricles and the four heart valves and is the only device that eliminates the symptoms and source of end-stage biventricular failure in which the heart can no longer pump enough blood for the patient to survive.

The Total Artificial Heart provides immediate, safe blood flow of up to 9.5 liters per minute through each ventricle. This high volume of blood flow helps speed the recovery of vital organs, helping make the patient a better transplant candidate. It is the world's first and only FDA, Health Canada and CE approved Total Artificial Heart.

A Great Life

Over the next decade and a half Wohl has become an elite athlete, an advocate for organ donation awareness and an organ transplant mentor. He's happy to share that he has become a better father as well.

"Every day is such a blessing," says Wohl.

He regularly cycles, runs and swims in world-class open and transplant events around the world. Organizations such as the World Transplant Games Federation and Transplant Games of America allow athletes who have received organ transplants to compete in Olympic-style competitions. Transplant athletes demonstrate the power that organ transplantation has on the lives of organ recipients while encouraging organ donation.

Among the more than 100 medals and awards Wohl has won, he says the most intimate and moving were the ones he earned at the 2008 U.S. Transplant Games in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He broke three American records when he won three gold medals. On the podium, he gave his first gold medal to Stan Brady and his second to Paula Brady, the parents of Wohl's heart donor, Michael Brady. In 2002 the couple received Wohl's silver medal from the U.S. Transplant Games. He sent the second one to Michael's brother, Chris.

World Transplant Teams supported by the Bill Wohl Foundation are made up of kidney, heart and other organ donor recipients, including Wohl. They compete in world-class events to increase awareness of the need for organ donors.

To encourage more donor sign-ups, Wohl was instrumental in helping Arizona establish a "Donate Life" license plate. He encourages people all over the United States to support "Donate Life" license plates in their respective states and become organ donors.

About 3,800 people wait for a heart transplant on any given day, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. However, only about 2,300 donor hearts are available each year in the United States. Some 16% of people on the heart transplant list become too ill or die each year.

Like many folks nearing the end of a working career, he is thinking about what to do with the next phase of his life. He's "winding down" his business, looking for a slower pace of life and starting a new family with his girlfriend.

He even talks, a little, of slowing down in his athletic activities. Wohl was on one of the two World Transplant Teams that recently competed in their eighth Escape From Alcatraz triathlon relay. "It was a lot harder this time for all of us because we're all getting older," he says with a good-hearted laugh.

Wohl likes to say he's got the heart of a 49-year-old, the mind of a 12-year-old and the body of a 67-year-old. "The Total Artificial Heart and the transplant kept me around," he says. "I got a second chance to live a better life."

Wohl often has the opportunity to tell his story of how he "died" from heart failure and how the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart implant and donor heart transplant gave him a second chance at life. Bill's story has been told in television shows, print media and books. He personally shares his tale to people facing a similarly scary scenario.

"I tell people the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart is a great device," he says. "It does what it's supposed to do. It's way beyond a life saver. It helps revitalize the whole body, especially vital organs that have declined."

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