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OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma City Dodgers and INTEGRIS conclude the 2018 “Home Run For Life” series Friday at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark by recognizing Paul Ferguson, one of two people in the state of Oklahoma and surrounding region living with a Total Artificial Heart.
Ferguson had a history of cardiac issues and already had two mechanical heart valves when he was admitted to INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center in early December 2017 with a failing heart at the age of 65. In order to save his life, doctors took the bold step of removing Ferguson’s natural heart and replacing it with a Total Artificial Heart.
“Home Run For Life” recognizes individuals in the Oklahoma City community who have overcome a significant medical event with the help of their families, physicians and health care professionals. To symbolize the end of their battle against adversity, honorees take a home run “lap” around the bases during an in-game ceremony.
“For the eighth straight year, we are proud to partner with INTEGRIS to recognize some amazing Oklahomans who have faced extraordinary adversity with their health,” OKC Dodgers President/General Manager Michael Byrnes said. “Their perseverance and courage are great examples and we are pleased to have the opportunity to honor their hard work in overcoming these challenges.”
The Total Artificial Heart is the only FDA-approved device of its kind in the world. While traditional heart pumps assist one side of the heart or the other, the Total Artificial Heart replaces both ventricles. Instead of working with a person’s existing heart, the device is a heart substitute and the natural heart is physically removed from the patient.
“Our experience told us that Paul’s heart disease was so bad that a traditional heart pump wouldn’t be enough,” said Doug Horstmanshof, M.D., heart failure cardiologist and co-director of the INTEGRIS Advanced Cardiac Care program. “So, we decided to try something different – completely replacing the heart with the Total Artificial Heart.”
A constant, rhythmic thumping now follows Ferguson wherever he goes. The steady, pulsing sound of forced air stems from a small pump enclosed in a backpack that never leaves his side. That vital piece of equipment and even beat keep his heart pumping – 131 times a minute to be exact.
The Total Artificial Heart is powered by a portable pneumatic drive connected to the patient’s body by tubes. A heart transplant is often the next step for these patients, and the Total Artificial Heart is designed to allow them to wait for a matching donor heart at home rather than staying in the hospital, potentially for months on end.
Ferguson received his Total Artificial Heart in December and started inpatient rehabilitation at INTEGRIS Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation in January.
“It’s a very humbling experience,” Ferguson said. “It’s a journey.”
He has since returned home to Bethany and is back to enjoying retirement with his family and friends. Ferguson and his wife Kathy have three children and six grandchildren in the Oklahoma City area with whom they share much of their time.
After retirement, the couple purchased lakefront property at Lake Eufaula in eastern Oklahoma. With Ferguson’s Total Artificial Heart, they are still able to visit the lake with their family and enjoy time out on the water riding on their new pontoon boat.
Kathy said her husband has more flexibility than one would expect with his Total Artificial Heart. Charged batteries and electrical outlets need to be within reach wherever they go, but they even have a car charger for the backpack pump to add to his adaptability.
“This goes with me everywhere,” Ferguson said about the backpack. “I just set it down by my chair and I just plug in to the wall.”
Ferguson said he has learned the importance of living every day one day at a time throughout his journey. He is extremely grateful to his wife, family and the staff at INTEGRIS for their tremendous care.
“INTEGRIS is fantastic, and not just because of this,” Ferguson said. “The time I spent up there watching them work with other people, they are truly compassionate and caring people.
“They are very gifted and talented people and they are where they should be.”
Ferguson’s family, children and grandchildren provide his daily motivation. His youngest granddaughter is quickly nearing her second birthday.
“One of my reasons for getting this was my little one,” he said. “I want her to remember me.”
The Dodgers are in the midst of their final homestand of the regular season. They continue a three-game series against the Omaha Storm Chasers at 7:05 tonight at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark and then at 7:05 p.m. on a $2 Thursday, featuring $2 Pepsi products, bottled water and select beer.
The Dodgers’ final home series of the regular season opens against the Colorado Springs Sky Sox at 7:05 p.m. Friday to kick off Fan Appreciation Weekend at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. The OKC Disc Dogs will perform on the field and fireworks will follow the game, presented by Francis Tuttle.
The series continues at 7:05 p.m. Saturday, featuring the Clubhouse Collectibles silent auction presented by The Oklahoman. The final Chaparral Energy Family Sunday takes place at 6:05 p.m. Sunday, before the Dodgers host their final regular-season home game at 7:05 p.m. Monday against Colorado Springs.
Tickets are available through the OKC Dodgers ticket office located on South Mickey Mantle Drive, by phone at (405) 218-2182, or by visiting okcdodgers.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.