Artificial heart recipient Murray P. Haydon's wife said today that she was glad her husband had decided to "go for it," despite the potential risks involved in the implantation of the highly experimental mechanical device.
In their first appearance before the press, Juanita Haydon and five other members of her Louisville family said the decision had not been a difficult one because it was Haydon's only alternative to death from congestive heart failure. The retired auto worker continued to make a steady and uneventful recovery today from the surgery Sunday that made him the world's third recipient of an artificial heart.
In an opening statement, Haydon's son-in-law Rick Daugherty, a Southern Baptist pastor, expressed the family's gratitude to the two other artificial-heart recipients, the late Barney B. Clark and William J. Schroeder, and their families "for pioneering the way and helping to make this possible."
"Most of all," he added, "we are thankful to God -- the greatest physician of all."
He said his father-in-law was a pioneer paving the way for a technology that may someday be as common as the pacemaker.
But the family members stressed that they saw the mechanical heart primarily as a device that would keep Haydon alive longer and help him feel better in the short run.
Before his surgery, Haydon, 58, was increasingly short of breath, bedridden and unable to carry out even the simplest activity.
"Daddy said he wasn't in it for the glory," said his daughter, Diana Welsh, of Louisville. "If he could just get up and feed himself and brush his teeth and watch his children mature and his grandchildren grow, that would be worth it."
Anita Daugherty, another daughter, said her father had expressed concern at one point that "he didn't want to be a burden to us," but the family had assured him that they too wanted to go ahead.
Down the hall from Haydon in Humana Hospital Audubon is Schroeder, now in his 88th day with an artificial heart. He suffered a stroke thought to be related to the device 18 days after the implant and continues to have speech and memory problems.
Humana spokesman Dr. Allan M. Lansing, who earlier this week had painted a gloomy picture of Schroeder's condition, said today that the patient's improvement this week, both in spirit and strength made it possible that he might be able to leave the hospital within a week to go to a specially equipped apartment nearby. He said the lingering fever that Schroeder had suffered from appeared to have disappeared on Tuesday.
Dr. William C. DeVries, who implanted Schroeder's heart, was upset after seven television news crews decided to "stake out" the hospital parking lot, hoping to catch a glimpse of Schroeder in a wheelchair, a Humana spokesman said. He checked with Margaret Schroeder who decided that she and her husband would not go outside today as they did Tuesday.
Haydon son-in-law Keith Welsh drew a laugh when he said he felt that the only real burden Haydon had faced was getting his shirts cut to fit around the tubes that connect his body to the external drive system that powers his heart. "That's about it. Now he can get tailored suits."
The family members said they wanted to get to know the Schroeders for mutual support. "It was just one family, and now it's a tremendous bond of two families," said Welsh, who expressed hope that both artificial-heart recipients will soon feel well enough to become friends and "play cards or run down the halls and have races."
The Haydons agreed to answer questions with a small group of journalists who drew lots.
Four representatives, including a Washington Post reporter, went to the hospital, while the remaining reporters -- down to about three dozen from the more than 100 here last weekend -- watched on closed-circuit television at the Commonwealth Convention Center press room 15 minutes away.