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First Woman to Receive Artificial Heart Dies

October 15, 1986 GMT

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ Mary Lund, who became the first woman with an artificial heart and later received a human transplant, died as an apparent result of the viral infection that had caused her own heart to fail, doctors said.

Mrs. Lund, 40, who died Tuesday at Abbott Northwestern Hospital, never regretted deciding to receive the artificial heart, her husband, DuWayne, told reporters. ″Mary was courageous and strong. Our hope was that Mary could get well, but neither Mary nor I had any regrets.″

The Kensington woman received the mini-Jarvik artificial heart Dec. 18, one day after she was hospitalized with her own heart severely damaged by a sudden viral infection. She previously had no history of heart trouble.

On Jan. 31, she received the heart of a 14-year-old Montana girl who died after suffering an epileptic seizure. The transplant was successful, but Mrs. Lund’s vital organs were apparently seriously weakened by the original infection, doctors said.

″She gradually became less responsive,″ said Dr. Lyle Joyce, a cardiothoracic surgeon with the Minneapolis Heart Institute who led the team that implanted the artificial heart.

Mrs. Lund required kidney dialysis several times a week and her breathing was periodically aided by a respirator.

Three weeks ago, she had improved so that she could take wheelchair jaunts to Minneapolis lakes, her doctors said. But her condition began deteriorating Saturday, and she lapsed in and out of a coma in the days before her death.

″Funeral arrangements are private. It’s a family decision,″ hospital spokeswoman Mary L. Small said today.

Doctors said no extraordinary measures were taken to revive her. ″We felt it would have only been prolonging her death,″ Joyce said, adding she died of multiple organ failure apparently triggered by the original infection.

Mrs. Lund’s pancreas was not functioning properly, making it impossible for her to eat, Joyce said. She suffered from ulcers of the stomach, ongoing kidney failure and lung damage, although she had been breathing without a respirator. Neurological deterioration was the most crucial factor in her death, he said.

An autopsy will be conducted, he said. Results will not be made public for at least a month, Small said today.

″The ironic thing is that Mrs. Lund’s transplanted human heart functioned well throughout her hospitalization,″ said Dr. Fredarick Gobel of the heart institute. ″At this point, it is possible that her initial virus was far too damaging on her major organ systems.″

While she was on the Jarvik 70 heart, a scaled-down version of the Jarvik 7, she gained strength and recovered kidney functions, he said.

Science also benefited from Mrs. Lund’s experience with the mechanical heart, Joyce said. Her case demonstrated for the first time that a mini- Jarvik-7, 30 percent smaller than the standard Jarvik-7 which is too large for the chest of the average woman, could support life. That means an artificial heart is available for women and small men, he said.

She also demonstrated that the metal and plastic device could be left in place for an extended period - in her case, 45 days - without causing even a mild stroke. Strokes had been a problem for previous artificial heart recipients because of the tendency of clots to form around exposed metal parts.

There was no evidence that Mrs. Lund’s body was rejecting the transplanted heart, said Dr. Marc Pritzker, a cardiologist with the institute.

Gobel said earlier in the year that Mrs. Lund’s impaired kidney function could be the result of stress since becoming ill in December and the anti- rejection drug cyclospirine, which she had received since the human heart transplant.

However, Pritzker said, ″We don’t have any evidence that the anti- rejection medication contributed to her death.″

″Until the final days, she had a reasonable chance of recovery,″ he said. Her death ″came as somewhat of a surprise.″

Mrs. Lund’s spirits were good until the end, according to her doctors. ″She was determined to live up to the last moment,″ Joyce said. ″She would do it again, she told us that many times.″

″The ultimate success would have been Mary going home, but there were many other successes not readily obvious,″ he said. As a result of Mrs. Lund’s case and others, ″there is more trust in the heart throughout the world.″

Twenty-three people have received artificial hearts as a bridge to human heart transplants, he said. ″We would do it again and we will do it again.″

A fund in Mrs. Lund’s name has been established at the institute, a hospital spokeswoman said.

On Saturday, the second woman to receive an artificial heart, Bernadette Chayrez, died in Phoenix.