Artificial-heart patient William J. Schroeder suffered a brain hemorrhage today and was readmitted to intensive care at Humana Hospital Audubon where his condition was reported as critical but stable.
The cause of the hemorrhage is unknown, hospital spokesman Robert Irvine said. Asked if it is life-threatening, he said: "At this point, they are trying to determine just what the situation is." A further briefing is scheduled Tuesday morning.
Schroeder, 53, of Jasper, Ind., who had grown increasingly weak and listless in the last few days, was returned to the hospital this afternoon from the apartment across the street where he has lived for one month. He is the first artificial-heart recipient to be released from a hospital.
Officials said the hemorrhaging was discovered when a computerized axial tomography, or CAT, scan was made of Schroeder's head. Further tests are planned to see if he suffered neurological damage, Irvine said.
Doctors have discontinued blood-thinning drugs being given Schroeder to prevent recurrence of a stroke such as that which disabled him Dec. 13, hospital spokesman Donna Hazle said.
There were conflicting reports as to how much difficulty Schroeder had in speaking and moving after the hemorrhage. He has experienced such difficulty since the stroke.
Schroeder began growing weaker Thursday, when his wife, Margaret, "noticed a change" in his physical condition, Hazle said. Hazle was unable to elaborate on that change.
Since Schroeder's stroke, he has been plagued by an undisclosed number of seizures, in which he stares blankly for several minutes, followed by periods of weakness and extreme drowsiness. In the past, Schroeder has undergone CAT scans to check for evidence of strokes.
Schroeder received a blood transfusion last weekend to fight anemia -- a known side effect of the pumping action of the mechanical device.
As Schroeder suffers this latest in a long series of complications, there are indications that members of his family are beginning to change their view of Schroeder's desperate choice for an artificial heart.
The Schroeders originally looked to the artificial heart as a treatment "so he would be able to get better and come home," Mrs. Schroeder said in the current issue of Life magazine, which bought exclusive rights to their story.
But after the stroke and other setbacks left her husband unable to talk clearly, remember recent events or care for himself, she told the magazine: "I see it as more of a research experiment. The longer he lives, the more information doctors will get. Only for us, it's just so hard sometimes."
Only within the last couple of months has the family accepted the fact that "he'll never be the way he was," she said. "If he had anticipated the hardship that it has been on the family, he might not have done it," she added.
Schroeder's series of complications began within hours of his Nov. 25 implant. Dr. William C. DeVries had to reopen Schroeder's chest for a second operation to stop bleeding related to large amounts of anticoagulants administered to prevent a stroke.
After a surprisingly strong recovery, Schroeder suffered a massive stroke 18 days later. In January, after rebuilding some of his strength and ability to walk, Schroeder was felled by flu-like symptoms and a mysterious fever that lasted 2 1/2 weeks, leaving him so debilitated and depressed that one of his doctors worried that he might lose his will to live.
When Schroeder was discharged April 6, he was taken by wheelchair to a special van for the brief ride across the street to an apartment owned by the Humana Hospital company. The apartment is equipped with an alarm system and a round-the-clock nursing staff.