Many of those with heart disease used transplantation, first performed in 1967, as the only option to cure the inoperable condition, but many died while waiting for a donor heart to become available.
The solution was an artificial heart to keep the patient alive until a real heart could be transplanted. There were even hopes that an artificial heart could be implanted permanently.
Attempts began in 1957 and again in 1969 but by 1982, Dr. Robert Jarvik had developed a plastic-and-aluminum heart composed of two polyurethane pumps (ventricles) with air chambers and six titanium valves. Slightly larger than its human counterpart but weighing the same, the Jarvik-7 functioned like a natural heart as the ventricles pushed blood from the inlet valve to the outlet valve.
The first experimenters were animals such as sheep and calves.
The first human tester was a man named Dr. Barney Clark, a 61-year-old retired dentist from Seattle. Clark lived, but immobilized due to the 375 pound plastic heart and he also suffered infections and blood clots, resulting in a number of strokes as well as pneumonia and vomiting.
112 days after the transplant, Clark died from circulatory collapse, shock, and multiorgan collapse; everything had failed, except for the artificial heart.