Monday, June 13, 2016

The Man Who Had No Heart

Stan Larkin lived for 555 without a heart.
Image: Shutterstock
It’s a story that sounds like science fiction, but it’s true: a Michigan man lived for 555 days without a heart. Stan Larkin, a 25-year-old from Ypsilanti, had his real heart removed in November of 2014, but there wasn’t a heart to replace it. Instead, Larkin received an artificial heart, called a “Freedom Driver,” whose power source he carried with him in a backpack. The artificial heart allowed him to live a mostly normal life at home so he didn’t have to wait in the hospital for a transplant.

Larkin didn’t know anything was wrong with his heart until nine years ago. He suddenly collapsed while playing basketball, and doctors discovered he had a genetic heart condition called arrhythmogenic dysplasia, which causes arrhythmias and failure on both sides of the heart. This condition occurs when heart muscles stretch and enlarge at least one heart chamber, so blood can’t pump the way it’s supposed to.

Larkin’s brother, Dominque, also has the condition. But while Dominique only had to use his artificial heart for six weeks before he received a transplant, Larkin had to wait much longer. Doctors decided that because Larkin was doing so well with the machine he could leave the hospital with it to see if he could live an ordinary life.

“I was shocked when the doctors started telling me that I could live without a heart in my body and that a machine was going to be my heart. Just think about it—a machine,” Larkin said. The machine Larkin took home with him included chambers and four valves, like an organic heart. Two tubes that exited Larkin’s body under his ribcage connected the device to a 13-pound power source called the Freedom Driver, which was carried in the backpack.

The machine both powered the artificial heart and delivered compressed air into its ventricles so that blood could be pumped through the rest of Larkin’s body. Larkin says that the device felt just like a real heart. “It’s just in a bag with tubes coming out of you, but other than that, it feels real,” he said. The device had to be replaced about ten times because Larkin was living such an active life.

Larkin was able to have a successful heart transplant 555 days since the Freedom Driver was implanted. He is doing well and recovering quickly, and he’s glad to be healthy again. Larkin’s situation is very promising for other people waiting for transplants.

“I think there’s good science here, and there have been really great advancements in this area,” said Dr. Laman Gray, chair of cardiovascular surgery at Jewish Hospital at the University of Louisville. “We’re making great progress, and people are living normal lives. There’s definitely a place for total artificial hearts and a need for them.”

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Duracell Launches “Stay Connected” Campaign to Help the Hearing Impaired

duracell stay connected campaign
Duracell's "Stay Connected" Campaign will help the hearing
impaired and their families.
Image: Shutterstock
I have always loved language and communication; it's the reason I majored in English and minored in Spanish. It's the reason I have dabbled in other languages over the years, and the reason I have always wished I had been brought up in a bilingual home or a country where learning a second language at a young age was required.

Our brains are amazing things; as we grow older, we absorb the languages we are surrounded with, somehow making the connection between the words spoken or signed and what they represent in our world. Simply amazing.

But what would you do if you suddenly found yourself losing your hearing, your ability to understand what others were saying? Or worse, what if your hearing was completely lost? My dad, who struggles with Minnear's disease, is almost completely deaf in one ear, with additional hearing loss in the other. He's had years to adjust, but I can still clearly see how much it impacts him every day.

Recently, he was finally able to get a hearing aid, which has improved his quality of life vastly. He likes to joke that now he can turn the sound on or off, depending on whether he wants to hear what's going on. The smile on his face tells me that he is so relieved to finally be able to hear clearly again, to participate in all the little conversations going on at a noisy restaurant, to hear his granddaughter when she calls his name softly.

Unfortunately, not all people have access to the kind of care my dad has been able to get. Fortunately, Duracell has a new program that aims to help people struggling with hearing impairment and their families. “Stay Connected” wants to make sure that hearing-impaired people don’t miss out on anything in life. The campaign will offer 10,000 free hearing screenings until June 26th, helping people determine if they have hearing loss and what they can do to work with it so they aren’t kept from special moments in their lives.

Hearing loss is associated with other health problems, like depression, dementia, and Alzheimer’s. I know all too well the feeling that my hearing-impaired loved ones are drifting away from everyone because they can’t participate in events the same way. Duracell, whose board of directors once included KKR co-founder Henry Kravis, published a very touching video ad for the program that features a father drifting away from his family. The video definitely gets the importance of Duracell’s mission across clearly: if you live with hearing impairment, there’s help for you and your loved ones.

“We didn’t want the hearing test itself to be the obstacle for anyone currently suffering and not being treated,” said Peter Gorzkowski, Director of Marketing and Commercial Operations at Duracell. “So we made it as simple as possible and are proud to be providing over 10,000 free tests.”

About 48 million Americans and 3 million Canadians have hearing loss, and only 20% of those over 65 seek help for it. Millions of people are left untreated—too many! According to Dr. Marshall Chasin, AuD, hearing loss is the “second most prevalent health issue globally. The number of people with hearing loss is more than those living with Parkinson’s, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes combined.”

Duracell, which already manufactures batteries for hearing aids, helps people find licensed audiologists and other resources through its website. The website connects users with doctors and hearing professionals in their area, as well as other people and families also struggling with hearing loss.

This powerful program has the potential to change and improve the lives of millions of people around the United States and Canada. If you or someone you love needs help with their hearing, check out the “Stay Connected” campaign to see if it can help!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Attitude Adjustment: Strong Mental Habits to Live By

I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about attitude and how it impacts success. Many times, our personalities and individual histories play a big role in determining how we view the world and the work we do. But I’m also a firm believer that we each have control over how we think about and carry out our work.

We choose our attitudes, the way we approach and react to situations. And though we might not necessarily be able to change our default settings with the snap of our fingers, we can most certainly train ourselves to question those defaults in the interest of personal growth and improvement.

In the past several years, I’ve gone from being a college student to an intern to an educator to a manager at a small tech company. I’ve had the chance to see a lot of different attitudes in action and evaluate my own attitude as well. Here are some of the most pointed things I have learned along the way about how we can improve our attitudes, stop harmful mental habits, and give ourselves the best chance of success:

Stop trying to please everyone. You cannot please everyone – so don’t beat yourself up when you aren’t able to do so.

Don’t let others have power over your mental state. Instead of blaming your boss for your “making you feel [insert negative emotion here],” recognize that you are in control of your emotions. You always have a choice in how to respond. Don’t give anyone else that power.

Don’t dwell. Don’t start work on a new project with a bad attitude because the last time didn’t go so well. Don’t hold a grudge against a coworker. Do what you can to influence the outcome of situations, but don’t dwell on things you can’t change.

Learn to compromise. Have an open mind. Assert your opinions and ideas, but recognize when you need to do something someone else’s way. Maybe they’re your boss or your simply outnumbered. Shrug, accept it, and move on. Leave the bitterness at home.

Be humble and forgiving. Hold yourself and others accountable, but don’t create a toxic culture of guilt or fear when something goes wrong. Because it will go wrong, for you or someone else. Set high standards, but never put yourself on a pedestal.

Be patient. Patiently persist, refuse to give into learned helplessness, and do tasks that are hard for you just so you can get better at them. You don’t have to smile while you do it, but don’t be angry at the world, either. Growing is a painful, slow process.

Stop groaning. Of course work isn’t always fun. In fact, it’s frequently not fun, and most of us would rather be doing something else. But please don’t torture yourself and others by constantly talking about how bored or unhappy or sick of work you are. That leads into…

Find a way to stay positive (or at least neutral). If you fail, think about what you learned. If a client is stressing the team out, commend each other on how you came together to solve a problem. Look for the positive in everything, not the negative.

Face the situation. Swallow your panic, your fear, your instinct to avoid confrontation. Fix issues as soon as possible—before they get worse. Force yourself to be objective and open-minded during confrontations, not ruled by your emotions.

Question entitlement. Listen to me carefully: You. Are. Not. Entitled. To anything. In the professional, adult world, we all must earn our keep. Sometimes that means giving things time to grow, or making less pay than you want so that you can gain experience, prove yourself, and learn how to advance your career. Absolutely try to find a workplace that appreciates and values you, but don’t ruin your chance to grow because you are too busy feeling entitled to something better. If you’re very lucky, you’ll get your dream job right away and that will be that… but if you’re like the rest of us, you’ll need to take some baby steps in between.