Technology lets Tucson heart transplant patient leave hospital

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- A Tucson woman has a whole new outlook on life, after a sudden health problem nearly killed her.

Marcela Padilla, 21, is waiting for a heart transplant, but instead of waiting in the hospital for one, new technology has let her go home.

The artificial beat of a machine is a beat Marcela Padilla has grown accustomed to.

"I think I kinda got used to it,"

The portable machine, called the freedom driver, powers the beat of Marcela's heart.

"It was really shocking when they told me, that I might need a heart," said Marcela.

Last April after Marcela gave birth to her son Santiago, out of the blue, she started having heart problems.

"It was hard to breathe. It was hard because I couldn't be laying down," said Marcela.  "I used to have like 5 to 6 pills to sleep."

Doctors didn't know exactly why, but they told Marcela her heart was dying. They removed part of it and implanted a total artificial heart.

The bad news was Marcela couldn't leave the hospital until she got a heart transplant.

"I just wanted to sleep and stuff 'cause it was really hard," said Marcela.

After three months, doctors came to Marcela with the freedom driver. The portable machine fits inside a backpack Marcela carries with her 24-seven. She's one of five Americans to use it and the only person in southern Arizona to ever leave the hospital while waiting for a transplant.

"It gives me another opportunity to live," said Marcela.

It gives Marcela the opportunity to live, at least for now, with her now 9-month-old son while sending this simple message to those around her, "To enjoy life, 'cause you don't know whats going to happen the next day."

Marcela says she doesn't have any idea when she'll get her heart transplant, but doctors say she can live off the freedom driver for several years.