PHOENIX — Someone alert the Tin Man that he doesn’t need a heart to accomplish great things.
“I kind of looked at the Pat Tillman run as a way to push myself out of my comfort zone,” said Mesa resident Randy Shepherd, who walked the entire 4.2-mile Pat’s Run course on April 26.
And he did it all without a real heart.
After getting severely damaged by rheumatic fever in his teens, doctors at the University of Arizona Medical Center in Tucson were forced to remove his dying heart. In its place, they inserted a SynCardia Total Artificial Heart while they waited for a compatible donor.
“Mentally it’s made me just a little bit stronger and able to handle and recover from the stresses that I’ve gone through and that I have coming up,” he said.
The SynCardia Heart is the “world’s first and only FDA, Health Canada and CE approved Total Artificial Heart,” the company said in a press release. Reynolds was also the first person without a real heart to compete and finish Pat’s Run.
Shepherd literally couldn’t have done it alone, though. He cannot walk for long distances without the aid of his Freedom portable driver, a 13.5-pound device that “contains all of the electronics that operate the SynCardia Heart.” The heart doesn’t actually require any parts or sensors or electronics to be inserted inside a body in order to function properly.
Shepherd carried the driver in his backpack, while Steve Langford, Director of Clinical Support at SynCardia, walked alongside Shepherd and his wife, Tiffany, with a backup driver.
The trio completed Pat’s Run in one hour and 40 minutes.
“I won’t say I did it for Pat, because I did it for myself,” he said. “But to do it in Pat’s honor, made it that much more special.”
Shepherd, who has always been athletic, hopes he can be an inspiration to others.
“Don’t wait for those things (health problems) to get better,” he said. “Enjoy life. Do what you want to do today.”