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A true pioneer.

Byline: The Register-Guard

Heroes come in all sizes and shapes, and they achieve their fame in any number of ways.

Robert Tools, who died last Friday at age 59, was a medical hero. He became a pioneer whose stoic courage and will to live may have paved the way for countless heart patients to live productive lives. In July, Tools became the first-ever recipient of a fully self-contained artificial heart.

Beset by congestive heart failure, diabetes and kidney disease, Tools had been expected to live 30 days at most without the new surgery. The retired telephone company worker said he had a choice at that point "to stay home and die or come here (Louisville, Ky., where research on the new heart implant was being conducted) and take a chance. I decided to come here and take a chance. I realize that death is inevitable, but I also realize that if there's an opportunity to extend it, you take it."

Tools' hopeful but realistic assessment of his condition, as well as the long-shot possibilities offered by the ground-breaking implant, made him an ideal pioneer into the unknowns of medical science. He lived 155 days with his "whirring" new heart, at least four months longer than he could have expected to live without it.

Was the extra four months worth the surgery and its accompanying recuperative challenges? To Tools, they obviously were. His doctors said he died not because of problems with the AbioCor heart, but because of abdominal bleeding brought on by long-standing health problems. It's also important to note that although Tools was the first, four other patients from across the country have received the AbioCor device and are currently living with it.

There no doubt will be improvements in the AbioCor heart as its varied effects on patients continue to be analyzed and assessed. And there will no doubt be newer, and better, devices created in the future that will offer heart patients at least the chance at extended, maybe even highly productive lives.

If so, those patients should offer a quiet toast to Robert Tools, who took a chance and, in doing so, became a medical pioneer and an authentic American hero.

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Title Annotation:Artificial heart recipient Robert Tools; Editorials
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Dec 6, 2001
Words:369
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