In February 2012, when the family lived in Utah, Andrew discovered he had been born with a congenitally malformed aortic valve and had developed an aneurysm (bulge) of the ascending aorta. This all came to light only after he experienced chest pains, which worsened over time.
In October 2012, doctors attempted to replace his aortic valve and a portion of his aorta, but following the procedure his heart wouldn’t start beating on its own. He was rushed to Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute, where he was kept alive on ECMO, a machine that takes over the function of the heart and lungs, for a few days to see if he would recover—but he didn’t.
The Intermountain Medical Center Artificial Heart Program is one of the most active and advanced programs in the nation.
“He had profound biventricular failure,” Dr. Bruce Reid, surgical director of the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute’s Artificial Heart Program, said at the time. “We didn’t feel we could bridge him with anything less than a (SynCardia) Total Artificial Heart.”
Andrew was implanted with the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart on Oct. 18, 2012. Like a heart transplant, the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart replaces the two failed heart ventricles and four heart valves. It provides immediate blood flow of up to 9.5 liters a minute through each ventricle, more than what most healthy human hearts provide.
He regained his strength and eventually received a matching donor heart on Jan. 12, 2013.
Today, the Weaver family lives in Florence, Arizona. Andrew dotes on Haley. He takes her on outings, patiently allows her to paint his fingernails—“I’m just happy it’s green and not pink,” he says—and enjoys cuddling while they watch movies at home.
“Life couldn’t be better,” says Andrew, 33. “I’m very grateful to see my daughter’s second birthday. I’m glad to see my wife graduate with her bachelor’s degree.”
With a second chance at life, Andrew has changed his lifestyle. “I’m a lot more active now,” he says. “I’m conscious of what I eat and what I do. I’m not sitting on my butt playing video games.”
Once Andrew returned home with his new human heart, Heather, 29, completed her degree in English and is now working on a master’s degree in healthcare administration, inspired to help others who face what her family did with heart disease.
That experience also prompted her to write a book, Unbreakable: A Father’s Fight to Live. “The (SynCardia Total Artificial Heart) and the great medical team at Intermountain Medical Center are he only reasons my husband is alive today,” she wrote. “I just want everyone to know that there is hope.”
Andrew is emphatic about what the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart does. “At the end, it will save your life.”