First-in-Canada heart procedure gives him a new lease on life

At 55 years of age, Robert Barton faced an impossible situation. He needed a kidney transplant to save his life. To prepare for transplant, he needed to have his heart repaired. But there was a problem:  Robert’s heart was too weak to survive the kidney transplant. It was also too weak to undergo the open-heart surgery needed to make it better.

Peter Munk Cardiac Centre Cardiologist Dr. Christopher Overgaard said Barton’s heart was too weak for open-heart surgery. So, the doctor asked if he’d be interested in trying something new.ffered Robert a new device called a TandemHeart. The device, inserted through a small catheter rather than a surgical incision, makes it safer for even high-risk cardiac patients. The instant the TandemHeart was in place, the blood flow to Robert’s organs was greatly increased. Robert was awake the whole time during the three-hour procedure to place the temporary device.

Dr. Chris Overgaard

The TandemHeart takes over for a weak heart when doctors are working on it. It acts as an artificial pump, sucking blood out of the body – “energizing” it, then pumping it back in. Watch Dr. Overgaard explain how it works.

“That allowed the rest of the body to get all the perfusion it needed while we’re working away on the chamber that actually is supposed to do that,” Dr. Overgaard said. “We’re essentially fixing a car engine while it’s running.”

The TandemHeart has been used  in the United States, but this was the first time it had been used for an angioplasty procedure in Canada.

Meanwhile, Robert says having the procedure has changed his life. “I’m looking forward to going golfing again, heck, cutting the grass. I haven’t been able to shovel snow in three years because I have no energy,” he said.

“I’m able to live life again. There’s a new lease on life. And how do you express that, how do you say, ‘Thank you?’


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