Christmas Reminds Nurse of Courageous Patient

Post a Comment » Written on December 17th, 2002     
Filed under: News
By Craig Pinley

SAVAGE, MN (December 17, 2002) – The Christmas season will always have added significance to Kris (Thurner) Mannchen, thanks to a woman named Mary Lund and a medical miracle 17 years ago that allowed Lund to enjoy an extra Christmas on earth.

A native of Mequon, Wisconsin, Mannchen was a 26-year-old nurse at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis when Lund became the first woman to ever be fitted with an artificial heart. The Jarvic 7-70 device (a new artificial heart prototype) was implanted into Lund on December 17, 1985, as a team of 29 doctors watched and/or assisted. Lund received a human heart 44 days later, recalled Mannchen, who with her family attended Community Covenant Church in Shawnee, Kansas, until recently moving to Minnesota. Lund eventually died of multiple organ failure on October 14, 1986.

“These surgeons, mainly, said that they wanted to learn about this artificial heart,” said Mannchen, who served as the intensive care nurse responsible for monitoring Lund following surgery. “They said that they wanted to help patients who were dying and needed a heart transplant, but did not have one available at that time. There was a core group of nurses that learned how to run the machine and care for a patient with this device.

“What I recall was (what seemed like) four million people standing around and TV cameras all over,” Mannchen continued. “This made the national news. It was a big hype at the beginning. Everyone was so engulfed by the event. But it was a hard life for Mary. She did it for others down the road. She knew she probably wasn’t going to make it.”

More than 2,000 heart transplants are performed annually and most who receive them can live highly functional lives – an Abbott Northwestern Hospital study in 1996 found that more than 80 percent of their transplant patients were near normal function five years later. However, there are far too few donors to meet the demand.

Doctors hoped that artificial hearts could help fill that need and a mechanism designed by Robert K. Jarvic, the Jarvic-7, showed promise in the early 1980s. On December 3, 1982, surgeons implanted a Jarvic-7 into 62-year-old Barney Clark at the University of Utah Medical Center. He lived 112 days with the plastic heart.

The Jarvic 7-70 wasn’t expected to keep Lund alive forever, but doctors hoped it could buy them time until a human heart transplant became available. Lund, who lived in Alexandria, had extensive heart damage and when she was flown down to the Twin Cities, doctors quickly realized that the Jarvic 7-70 was the only option.

Mannchen stated that Lund needed to be sedated for a while after the surgery because of the large device within her. “She was a small person and she gained a lot of fluid weight,” she said. Many doctors were interested in Lund’s progress – “all of them came to see her every day.”

Mary Lund didn’t have an easy life after receiving the artificial heart. And though Mannchen said that Lund was given a healthy transplanted human heart six weeks later, life still remained a struggle. Lund endured a tracheotomy – she was hooked up to a respirator and couldn’t talk – and could only communicate by writing everything down. She also endured an overwhelming amount of attention, which proved to be a major distraction for the Lund family.

“I remember after she woke up (after the heart transplant), they were totally overwhelmed by the whole ordeal and there were all of these surgeons and nurses and newspaper reporters,” Mannchen said. ” . . . She was a reserved person and didn’t talk about her feelings very much. What I envisioned was that these people (doctors and media) were in the fast lane and what is best for the family was forgotten. The family unit . . . had a hard time trying to cope. That was sad.

“Lund would write, ‘Why do I have all of these doctors asking me how my abdomen is?'” Mannchen continued. “So one day I put a sign up on her door and I wrote, ‘No one can ask about Mary’s abdomen; she’s at the beach.’ She told me that was her greatest day ever.”

During Lund’s stay at Abbott Northwestern, Mannchen spent 12 hours per day with her four days a week caring for the heart patient. The two became good friends and Mannchen was optimistic Lund would regain her health.

Mannchen went on vacation during the fall of 1986 and was gone for four weeks. When she returned to work, she visited Lund for what would be the last time. “She said, ‘Oh, you’re there.’ And then she died. I was a young person and I thought she would live forever. And after she died I realized that I had forgotten about my whole life. My whole being was encompassed in her treatment . . . I don’t always think about her at Christmas, but I often think of the experience because during that (eight-month) span I gave my life to her.”

Until recently, Mannchen has been a cardiology nurse practitioner at the Mid-America Heart Institute in the Kansas City area. She now works for the Minnesota Heart Clinic in Edina, a Twin Cities suburb. She said that caring for Lund changed her focus of medical care for patients.

“I (first) ask the patient, ‘What do you want to do?’ In the fast lane of medicine today, many doctors and practitioners fail to ask the patients (certain things),” said Mannchen. “Patients value me so much because I understand their concerns and know how I can help them live with disease.”

Mannchen remembers Lund’s death as a sad time, but even during that difficult period she found some happy times. She met her husband, Tim, in August 1986 and he was helpful in helping the nurse process her experience. Kris and Tim are the parents of three children. Time has allowed Mannchen to reflect on Lund’s sacrifice more fully.

Those like Lund who allowed doctors to implant them with artificial hearts gave the medical profession an opportunity to improve their overall treatment of heart patients. Mannchen has seen the positive results of those improvements and believes Lund would be happy that her life has helped others.

“Mary (Lund) questioned why she had done it (allowed doctors to implant the artificial heart), but then she would say, ‘I’m doing this for other people.’ And I can remember two other patients where we learned from what happened to Mary, and those two went home – and one is still living today.”

Copyright © 2011 The Evangelical Covenant Church.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Report This Post

Leave a Reply

Report This Blog