A Birmingham man who became the first person in the world to receive a robotic heart has died at a city hospital, it was revealed yesterday.
Four years after the pioneering operation, Peter Houghton, who lived in Edgbaston, entered the Guinness Book of Records in August 2004 as the longest-surviving artificial heart patient.
But the 68-year-old's condition had deteriorated in recent months, forcing him to move to a nursing home, and he died at Selly Oak Hospital last Sunday.
The cause of death is thought to be multiple organ failure but medics had to remove the battery from his 'bionic heart' in order to pronounce him dead.
Mr Houghton's widow Diane was too upset to talk about his death yesterday. His funeral is due to take place on Friday.
Seven years' ago doctors had given the former foster carer just weeks to live after he was diagnosed with idiopathic dilated cardimyopathy, which meant his heart was too weak to pump blood around his body.
Even when he heard about a pioneering medical trial at John Radcliffe Hospital, in Oxford, Mr Houghton's only hope was that his death "would be of benefit to someone else".
He was fitted with a tiny Jarvik 2000 device, a lightweight battery-powered titanium turbine designed to keep the heart pumping, in a £300,000 operation in June 2000.
It plugged into a socket just behind his ear and the wire then ran down into his body to the pump.
Mr Houghton, who spoke to The Post in June 2005, explained how he'd said his goodbyes and even had a priest read his last rites before the ground-breaking operation.
"My only fear was that it would work but I'd be left as a 'vegetable'. I'd made my peace with everyone so I didn't want to be a burden," he said. "My first memory of the day after the operation is when I realised my mind was still working, I had a tube in my mouth so I couldn't talk but I was taking everything in. It had worked, I was still here."
His "bionic heart" gave Mr Houghton a new lease of life, as he took on work for various charities including the Artificial Heart Fund and Heart Research UK.
Since then he has helped raise £3 million to fund similar operations for other heart patients.
The operation costs between £100,000 and £200,000, and the Jarvik device costs about £60,000 - but this is not available on the NHS and only 160 artificial hearts are available for transplantation each year.
In August 2004 he entered the record books as he broke the previous world record for the longest surviving artificial heart patient, as his post-op life tallied 1,513 days.
Mr Houghton's neighbour, friend and fellow charity worker John Lloyd was devastated by the news he had died but paid tribute to his colleague.
Mr Lloyd, a regional executive for Heart Research UK, said: "He wanted to help as many people as he could and was very much a family man.
"He fostered 11 children over the years, although he never had any of his own.
"His condition deteriorated very quickly towards the end. Peter was such a likeable man who did so much for so many people. It's such a tragedy."