A “bionic” heart for rock ‘n’ roll

November 17, 2010

I met Dan Roth in conjunction with a story being written by Reuters’ Toni Clark. Toni’s story was about a new kind of artificial heart, the LVAD (Left Ventricular Assist Device), which is implanted inside a patient’s chest. It is powered by external, rechargeable batteries connected to a cable coming out of the patient’s side, and pumps blood through the circulatory system on a continuous basis, taking over most of the heart’s work.

Dan is 23 years-old, has an LVAD implanted inside him, and is awaiting a heart transplant. All this after he had a stroke, had a defibrillator implanted in his chest and ultimately “coded” for 6 minutes.

Dan provided a compelling story for Toni and I. He plays in a rock band, works out at home and in a gym, twice a day changes the rechargeable batteries on his LVAD and at night plugs himself into the wall to power his LVAD while he sleeps. Dan graciously let me tag along to photograph much of this and all of these activities provided a nice set of pictures showing the full life Dan enjoys. But I was afraid the photographs made it all look a bit too easy. None of those images showed the trauma Dan had to overcome to get to this point.

In order to complete the set of pictures, I wanted to make an image that showed the enormity of what he had gone through. So I asked Dan to pose for a portrait with his shirt open, revealing the scar where his chest was cracked open to install the LVAD. Dan understood what I was trying to show, and I’m grateful he agreed.

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