At the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute, Brent Haupt has been known as the "Tin Man."
He has been living at the hospital for the past six months awaiting a compatible donor heart to become available for transplant. Just like the Tin Man who travels down the yellow brick road in hopes of getting a new heart from the Wizard of Oz, Haupt, too, has been traveling daily up and down the hospital hallways waiting for his new heart. This past Sunday, he finally got it.
Last April, Haupt had the lower half of his heart surgically removed and a mechanical heart attached in its place. As he patiently waited for a compatible donor heart to become available, he had no problem keeping himself busy.
He is grateful for the technology that kept him alive and the expertise and resources available at the Heart Institute that allowed him to get stronger and healthier as he awaited his big day.
Haupt loves physical activity and attended physical therapy twice a day. He stayed physically active because of the long-term benefits: After his heart transplant his recovery time will be easier.
His goal is to go home eight days after his surgery. With his can-do attitude, he just may do it. “I’m a rare bird in terms of my health,” said Haupt. “Most total artificial heart patients have other complications and aren’t able to do a lot of physical activity.”
Sharon, Haupt’s wife, said, “He has legs of steel now!” Other benefits of physical exercise: It helped him keep his day structured and enhanced his emotional health.
Brent’s wife and children played a huge role in integrating normalcy and structure into his life in the hospital. Sharon comes to the hospital during the day every day to be with her husband and each night one of their four children comes to spend time with him.
“We actually keep a running Google Doc with our children so we know who’s going to be at the hospital each night,” said Sharon with a laugh.
Each Sunday the Haupts have had family dinner at the hospital; they even celebrated Brent’s dad’s birthday there a few weeks ago. “We’ve been able to gather together on Sundays like we did before,” says Haupt. "We tried to keep everything as routine as possible."
At the hospital they’ve also been able to meet and befriend other patients, and Haupt, a local businessman, actually turned his hospital room into a business office. Brent and Sharon own Alphagraphics in West Jordan, and they managed their business from his hospital room. They even held staff meetings in one of the hospital conference rooms. In addition to keeping busy with their business, Brent and Sharon are active in the South Jordan Rotary Club, where they’ve been members for 15 years, and they continue to volunteer and support non-profit organizations.
Haupt was diagnosed with heart failure in 2011, when he blacked out while riding his bike. The next thing he knew he was in the hospital.
If it wasn’t for two Good Samaritans who saw his bike accident and stopped to help, Haupt may not be here today. He was diagnosed with ventricular tachycardia and received a pacemaker, but his health started to decline. His heart developed an arrhythmia and he began entering the end stages of heart failure.
In early 2014, Brent had an ablation procedure to try and fix his abnormal heart rhythm. Despite the procedure, he began having frequent heart attacks, sometimes more than once a week, and was diagnosed with punctured bowels and kidney failure.
“In many cases of heart failure we’re able to bridge the patient to transplant by using a left ventricular assist device, or LVAD,” said Bruce Reid, MD, cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute. “In Brent’s case, both the right and left ventricles of his heart were failing, so the only option available to keep him alive while he waited for a transplant was a total artificial heart.”
In April 2015, Haupt was implanted with a total artificial heart. The lower ventricles of his heart were removed and two mechanical ventricles were surgically inserted in their place.
In June, he was connected to a SynCardia Freedom Driver, a smaller, more portable replacement to the larger driver, which controls pump function. It was the first time the device has been used in Utah.
Although Brent’s been through a lot over the past few years, he and his family have remained positive.
“Since my husband was placed on the smaller, more portable artificial heart device, we’re able to go outside for walks, walk down the hall, and have staff meetings here at the hospital,” said Sharon before Haupt received his new heart. “Our time in the hospital has been great, but it’s also nice to get out of the hospital room for a little while.”
Having a positive attitude through this adversity has helped Haupt keep moving forward.
“Even though I’m going through this trial and have been living in the hospital for the last six months, I have more strength, and I sometimes think I do more than I probably should,” said Haupt. “But I have a great team that keeps me going and supports me in so many ways. I’m thankful to my doctors and the staff who are amazing and I’m looking forward to the next chapter of my life.”
On Sunday, thanks to the ultimate gift of a donor heart, that new chapter has begun.