Woman’s Life Saved by Artificial Heart

Screengrab of Diana Bowen
Screengrab of Diana Bowen | Image by NBC DFW

A Louisiana school teacher was kept alive for months by an artificial heart while she waited for an organ transplant at a Dallas hospital.

The cardiology team at Baylor University Medical Center (BUMC) in Dallas outfitted 51-year-old Diana Bowen with an artificial heart after she arrived at the facility with heart failure.

“She came to us, really, on death’s doorstep,” recalled cardiologist Dr. Timothy Gong, according to NBC 5 DFW.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and it is showing no signs of slowing down. Alongside having high blood pressure or cholesterol, being obese significantly increases a person’s risk for heart disease. Yet obesity rates continue to climb among both adults and children alike, as extensively covered by The Dallas Express.

As of September, 3,336 people were waiting for a heart transplant, with the average wait time exceeding six months.

To help bridge that gap, cardiologists have increasingly turned to mechanical devices. The artificial heart that kept Bowen alive for two months until a donor’s heart became available was just the fifth ever to be implanted at BUMC.

“You’re talking about a major surgery that involves opening the chest, removing both the ventricles of the heart, and then sewing in, essentially, this mechanical heart,” said Gong, according to NBC 5.

Bowen had to keep a battery pack at her side to power the device as it circulated blood through her body.

“There are two tubes that come out right here; they’re connected to a machine. That is actually an air compressor, basically. Now, I don’t know how it works, but it’s very loud!” Bowen explained, per NBC 5.

Artificial hearts come in a variety of designs nowadays, yet for now, they only buy patients some time. Researchers are striving to develop a wireless artificial heart that can last years instead of months.

The field of biotechnology continues to make leaps and bounds in the area of medical devices.

For instance, a pacemaker tattoo is in development by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and Northwestern University, as previously covered by The Dallas Express. Made of graphene, the contraption is much thinner and lighter than the traditional devices currently affixed to the heart to regulate irregular heartbeats.

High-tech contraptions aside, Bowen was very glad to have an actual human heart quietly beating in her chest after her transplant surgery.

The BUMC team that took care of Bowen is part of the Baylor Annette C. and Harold C. Simmons Transplant Institute, which is one of the largest multi-specialty transplant centers in the nation by volume and has been in operation since 1984.

As recently reported by The Dallas Express, Newsweek named BUMC the third-best hospital in the state on its 2024 in-state ranking. It scored behind the top-rated Houston Methodist Hospital and UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

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