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Heart transplant patient honored in special ceremony for American Heart Month

Patient received artificial heart that kept him alive for months before transplant

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PHOENIX (Feb. 16, 2024) – A Prescott man was honored today at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix during a special celebration for American Heart Month. Steven Ekdahl, 68, who was the hospital’s 100th heart transplant recipient, returned to thank his medical team and accept the mechanical heart that kept him alive for months before his transplant as a keepsake. The mechanical heart was given to him by SynCardia Systems, a Tucson-based company that manufactures total artificial hearts, which pump blood for patients who are waiting for a donor heart transplant.

Two years ago, just days before Christmas, Ekdahl was pronounced dead by emergency responders who rushed in to help after he collapsed in the bathroom at home. Despite the fact that his heart had stopped, his wife continued CPR and prayed until a miracle happened: he started moving again. 

Ekdahl initially went to a hospital in Prescott and eventually came to Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix for further treatment as his heart continued to fail. In June, he was implanted with the total artificial heart, which kept him alive for months before he received his heart transplant in October. Four months later, Ekdahl is grateful to be back on his feet again.

“It’s such a gift to receive a heart that gives you another chance at life,” Ekdahl said. “I’m not going to let anyone down.”

The hospital’s Advanced Heart Failure Program is the only of its kind in Arizona and has a post-transplant survival rate after one year of 95%, which is above the national average.

“Mr. Ekdahl’s story is an inspiration to everyone, and there are countless others that we’re privileged to play a role in as well,” said Dr. Radha Gopalan, medical director for the Advanced Heart Failure program. “As a leader in the southwestern region for heart transplantation, we look forward to continuing to set the standard for heart failure care so we can get more patients back to their normal lives.”

Heart failure, which occurs when the heart can’t pump enough blood and oxygen to support other organs, affects about 6.2 million people in the United States. By implanting a total artificial heart as a bridge to a donor heart transplant, patients can often return to living a healthy lifestyle after experiencing such a daunting diagnosis.

“Seeing patients return to the hospital after they’ve recovered is why we do our jobs as medical experts,” said Dr. Francisco Arabia, physician executive for the Advanced Heart Failure Program. “It is always gratifying to be able to offer a second chance at life for our transplant patients year-round.”

About Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix
Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix is a large teaching hospital that has provided medical care to Arizona and the Southwest since 1911. It is part of Banner – University Medicine, a premier academic medical network. The institution, which has trained thousands of doctors over decades as a teaching hospital, is the academic medical center for The University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix. The hospital, recognized by U.S. News and World Report as one of the nation’s best hospitals, specializes in heart care, cancer care, high-risk obstetrics, neurosciences, organ transplants, medical toxicology and emergency care, including a Level I trauma center. Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix is part of Banner Health, a nonprofit health care system with 33 hospitals in six states. For more information, visit


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