What Makes a Donor Heart Available for Transplant Was Almost a ‘Deal Breaker’ for Pastor Who Needed One to Save His Life

A Massachusetts pastor supported by the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart for four months vows to live a life worthy of the person whose heart donation gave him a second chance at life.
Aug 25, 2015 2:00 PM ET
Jim LaFontaine, who received a donor heart six months earlier, and wife, Julie, encourage organ donations as grand marshals of the 2014 Gloucester, Massachusetts Santa Parade. Jim was supported by the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart powered by the Freedom® portable driver for four months before his heart transplant.


Jim LaFontaine tries to live a life worthy of the person who donated the heart that gave the Essex, Massachusetts resident a second chance at life after he received a SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart implant that bridged him to that donor heart.

LaFontaine, 57, admits that while waiting for that matching donor heart, he struggled with the concept of receiving one.

“It was almost a deal breaker when I realized what someone had to do to for me to receive a donor heart,” says LaFontaine, a pastor at Emmanuel Community Church in Essex. “For me to receive a human heart means that someone is going to die. I can never in good conscious wish for a heart to come in.

“If the SynCardia Heart wasn’t just a bridge to transplant, if it was the destination, I think I would have considered just having a mechanical heart.”

›› Find out how Jim LaFontaine has lived life with a SynCardia Total Artificial Heart and then a donor heart.