Mimi Swartz

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Ticker: The Quest to Create an Artificial Heart

Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States and around the world. More than 600,000 Americans succumb to heart disease every year. Worldwide, an estimated 50,000 people are in dire need of a heart transplant to survive. Yet, in the United States, only 2,500 heart transplants are performed a year: there simply aren’t enough healthy organs to go around. These statistics are truly troubling. The search for a successful artificial heart has been a holy grail of medicine for decades, since the first open-heart surgery.

With Ticker: The Quest to Create an Artificial Heart, renowned journalist Mimi Swartz takes readers on an incredible behind-the-scenes journey into a heart surgeon’s epic pursuit of a total artificial heart—a dream of a reliable, implantable device that would extend the lives of patients who have no other recourse. As director of cardiovascular surgery at the Texas Heart Institute, and one of the foremost heart surgeons in the world, Dr. O. H. “Bud” Frazier’s lifelong mission has been to save lives by creating just such a device, despite opposition and derision from many of his colleagues.

Ticker chronicles the evolution of cardiac medicine, from pioneering efforts in open-heart surgery by the likes of famed heart surgeons Michael DeBakey and Denton Cooley, to the advent of heart transplants, to protégé Bud Frazier’s development of Left Ventricle Assist Devices (LVADs), so-called half hearts, which saved the life of Vice President Dick Cheney, among many others. With exclusive access, Swartz follows Dr. Frazier and his colleague Dr. Billy Cohn as they feverishly design, develop, and test new heart designs. This gripping, compelling narrative travels from the operating theater to the animal research labs of the famed Texas Heart Institute. Swartz follows Frazier and Cohn in their relentless quest for funding as government grants disappear. This is a book replete with surprises, including astonishing characters. Readers are introduced to Jim McIngvale, aka Mattress Mack, a discount furniture salesman who becomes a prime funder; Daniel Timms, a young Australian inventor who could not have imagined the turn his life would take when he brings his brilliant innovation to Texas; as well as the amazing patients who submit to experimental procedures hoping that if they cannot help themselves, they might help others; if not today, then sometime in the not-too-distant future.

Ticker is an unputdownable narrative that weaves together science, research, technology, and the obsession of one surgeon to save the unsavable.


Mimi Swartz is a longtime executive editor at Texas Monthly, and a two-time National Magazine Award winner and a four-time finalist. She is the co-author with Sherron Watkins of the national bestseller Power Failure about the collapse of Enron, and her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Esquire, and Slate, and her op-ed pieces appear regularly in The New York Times.