Man with two hearts set for 5km Saltram fun run
CHRIS Marshall will use two hearts to get round a fun run for a cardiac charity tomorrow.
The 50-year-old is kept alive by a mechanical heart that does 90 per cent of the work for his own diseased organ.
The device is controlled by an external battery power pack, the size of a large "bum bag", which he wears on his waistband.
He is on the transplant waiting list and gets out of breath if he pushes himself too hard. Two strokes caused by a blood clot linked to the mechanical heart put him in hospital earlier this year.
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But he's still set for the Plymouth Healthy Heart 5k (3.1mile) fun run at Saltram House, near Plympton.
Chris, a designer engineer at Derriford firm HellermannTyton said: "My workmate Guy Baser will be doing the fun run with me – he'll be carrying a spare battery pack.
"I have been in training but I won't be 'going for gold'. It will be walking pace for me.
"The implant works at one speed and my own heart can't cope if I exercise too much. I get out of breath and I have to slow down."
Chris was a super-fit sporting all-rounder five years ago before he was hit by a series of devastating heart attacks.
He was close to death several times over three and a half years until the LVAD (left ventricular assist device) was implanted in 2010 at Harefield Hospital, Middlesex, the leading cardiac centre in the UK. There is only one other person with an LVAD in the Plymouth area.
The equipment is so specialist that a member of the Harefield team trained staff in the accident and emergency unit at Derriford Hospital on the LVAD in case Chris is ever admitted.
Workmates and relatives are trained in the basics of the LVAD – such as changing the battery – in case there is a failure that leaves him helpless. At best he would get breathless and weak as soon as the LVAD stopped. At worst he could die.
The batteries last four hours. So Chris plugs himself into the mains before going to sleep. When he gets into his car he plugs himself in via the cigarette lighter socket.
Chris, who lives in Wembury, will also be accompanied by his girlfriend, Angela Meynell, on the 5k, in aid of the British Heart Foundation's Mending Broken Hearts appeal.
He is on course to raise over £800. HellermannTyton has pledged to match the figure.
Chris added: "I am doing this to show that people can leave a normal life even with a problem like mine and to raise awareness about the need for transplant donors."
He was back in Harefield for six weeks earlier this year and placed on top of the waiting list after the strokes. But the blood clot dissolved and he was discharged.
A donor heart could become available at any time – Chris will have his mobile phone on during the fun run in case the call comes to be airlifted to Harefield.