Providence patient Greg Soumokil celebrates successful total artificial heart surgery

Providence News


In this article:

  • Total Artificial Hearts allow patients to leave the hospital and live their lives while safely awaiting a heart transplant.
  • Providence surgeons Drs. Cristy Smith and Dennis Nichols performed an innovative procedure using the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart. 
  • Total Artificial Hearts help patients recover their function, get mobile and return home faster.

A Spokane grandfather who spent nearly 100 days in the Sacred Heart Medical Center Intensive Care Unit (ICU) returned home this month with a Total Artificial Heart (TAH). He is one of only 10 people in the nation with a TAH currently. His homecoming marks the first time a Providence Health Care patient has left the hospital with this technology

Living with heart failure

In early 2021, end-stage heart failure sent Greg Soumokil to the Intensive Care Unit. It soon became clear to his team of Providence providers that common treatments wouldn’t be enough to keep Greg alive until a donor heart transplant came through.  

In February, cardiac surgeon Dr. Cristy Smith, assisted by Dr. Dennis Nichols, opted for innovation in the form of the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart (TAH). Dr. Smith previously trained with the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart’s inventor, Dr. Jack G. Copeland, in Arizona. 

"The total artificial heart was going to be a way to get him mobile and to get him home. It really is used to allow the patients to recover their function, recover their muscle mass, their nutrition, and get healthier while safely waiting for a transplant," says Dr. Smith. 

How artificial hearts work

The artificial heart replaces the lower ventricles that pump blood to the body. Unlike other mechanical circulatory support devices, the SynCardia TAH replaces both sides of the failing heart. A portable driver small enough to fit inside a backpack powers the artificial heart, giving discharged patients more freedom. 

Greg Soumokil's heart was given a second chance. With the help of Providence Spokane Heart Institute and his new total artificial heart, Greg was able to go home and be reunited with his loved ones. 

Total Artificial Heart helps patients return to life

In May, Greg’s integrated team of nurses, physical therapists, doctors, and other support staff celebrated as Greg got ready to finally go home. The bright yellow sunshine balloon tied to his wheelchair bobbed along, a sign of better things to come.  

“Providence is committed to advancing the treatment of end-stage heart failure,” Dr. Smith said. “Greg’s progress is exciting and we are so happy to see him go home to spend time with his family. Our team is humbled by this opportunity to perform such an innovative procedure and to be a part of Greg’s life in this way. 

"I absolutely wouldn’t be here without Dr. Smith and her team. It’s been a long journey and I’m just blessed to be here," says Greg. 

Greg is currently waiting for a combined heart and kidney transplant, which will take place at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center when the organs become available. Until his organ match, he’ll be enjoying time at home with his wife, grandkids and dogs.  

Find a doctor

Are you or a family member facing a conversation about a heart transplant? If you are looking for a surgeon, you can find a Providence specialist here.  Through Providence Express Care Virtual, you can also access a full range of healthcare services. 

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