Plymouth grandad has to plug his electric heart into mains
GRANDFATHER-of-three Chris Schaffer owes his life to his electric heart.
Chris, 57, has suffered with cardiac problems for 15 years but has been "given a new life" after being fitted with the hi-tech device.
Chris, who is also on the waiting list for a heart transplant, today pledged his support for The Herald's Gift of Life campaign.
He said: "It's not until you go through something like this that you realise how important organ donors are. Think life, think of others and please become a donor – it can save a life."
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Chris, from Saltash, told The Herald he has been given a "second chance" after becoming the first man in Cornwall, and the seventh man in the country, to have a Circulite Synergy Micro-Pump LVAD – left ventricular assist device – fitted to keep him alive.
He said the new device, which was only released from clinical trials last month, has "saved his life" following over four months in hospital.
Suffering from his first heart attack at the age of 42, Chris underwent a heart bypass at Derriford Hospital.
He then had an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD), a small electronic device installed inside the chest, fitted to prevent sudden death from cardiac arrest, which he said saved his life nine times.
But in May this year Chris went into cardiac shock and his whole body shut down as a result of his heart not being able to pump enough blood around his system.
He remained in intensive care at Derriford Hospital for four weeks in an induced coma and at the beginning of June his family were told to prepare for the worst.
He said: "My family were called on June 5 to say that I was failing. But I rallied through. I had too much to live for."
Chris was referred to Harefield Hospital, in London, in August, after being told he needed either a heart transplant or a mechanical heart.
On arrival we was told by staff at Harefield that his body was too weak to receive a transplant and it was unlikely he would survive the wait.
He said: "I had to go for the mechanical heart, it was the only other option besides going home and sitting in God's waiting room.
"I had too much to live for – I had one daughter still to walk down the aisle, 10 years left at work and more grandchildren to welcome into the world.I owed it to my family to try."
The father-of-three had his mechanical heart fitted on September 16 and hasn't looked back since.
The device is the size of an AA battery and picks up the balance of his real heart, which only works at about 20 per cent.The artificial heart sits in the right hand side of the chest and is connected to Chris's real heart by small tubes which pump blood around the rest of his body.
"I came round from the operation about five hours afterwards and was raring to go. Being able to walk up the stairs on my own the following week was momentous. I hadn't been able to walk for four months, let alone climb the stairs.I feel better than I have for years – I feel like I've been given a second chance, given a new life," he said.
Chris's new heart is powered by a rechargeable battery pack in the day which he wears across his body like a small bag. In the evening he plugs himself into the mains.
He said: "I can either plug myself into the mains in the day if I'm just resting at home, or if I'm out and about I can use my battery pack.
"This machine is a new life. It 100 per cent saved my life. I feel like me 20 years ago. I feel like a new man."
Chris's wife Dee said they can't leave the house without an extra bag containing a battery, a spare controller, a letter from Harefield Hospital, an ID card and a fully charged mobile phone, but she said "it is a small price to pay for the man I've got back".
Chris said he is now looking forward to returning to normality and going back to work, as a training and education coordinator at Ginsters, where he has been for nearly 30 years.
He said: "Driving back across the Tamar Bridge last week was very emotional - to see Cornwall and my home again after nearly five months in hospital was fantastic.
"I've been through the battle so now I'm looking forward to enjoying my time."