Engineer with artificial heart plugs himself into cigarette lighter to keep it pumping on long car journeys

A former fitness fanatic who has an electric artificial heart has to keep himself topped up on long car journeys – by plugging into the cigarette lighter.

Chris Marshall, 50, walks around with a backpack full of batteries and connects himself to the mains when he sleeps at night.

He suffered a near-fatal heart attack three years ago and underwent a series of gruelling procedures to correct his faulty heart and narrow valves.

Chris Marshall connects himself to his car cigarette lighter

Jump start: Chris Marshall connects himself to his car cigarette lighter to charge his heart device

But last year his heart capacity plummeted to just 13 per cent and he was fitted with a device which acts as an artificial heart, pumping blood around his body.

But the batteries only last four hours, so Chris has to charge them at the mains whenever he can.

The amateur photographer, who regularly embarks on lengthy journeys, even plugs himself into his cigarette lighter to ensure he never runs out of charge.

TV cable engineer Chris, of Wembury, near Plymouth, Devon, said: “I plug in at every available opportunity.

“The device is essential for me but the batteries last around four hours each but I top up whenever I can.

“When I go to sleep, I plug into the mains socket as if it fails in the night it will literally be goodnight.

“I’m pretty much powered by batteries. If I drive down to Cornwall, it can be up to a three-hour round trip.

“So to make sure I’m topped up for the day I plug into the cigarette lighter on the way for extra charge. It’s OK as long as you don’t need to replace it with the satnav.

“I must be one of the only people in Britain powered by their cigarette lighter.”


Chris”s electrical artificial heart is connected to a battery in a bumbag. Each lasts for about four hours so Chris carried a backpack full of batteries and charges up where he can

Mr Marshall was a keen runner and regularly embarked on gruelling coastal runs in Devon as well as several gym sessions every week.
But after an ordinary gym session in 2008, he collapsed after feeling dizzy and started frothing at the mouth.

He was rushed to Derriford Hospital in Plymouth by ambulance, where doctors discovered he was suffering from narrowing arteries.

Over the following months, Chris underwent several procedures including having stents put in to widen his arteries and he later underwent a double heart by-pass.

He was later fitted with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) – an electrical impulse which regulated his heartbeat – until last year when his heart had deteriorated to just 13 per cent.

Last July, he was fitted with a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), a mechanism with an external power unit powered by two batteries which last around four hours each.

The bachelor, who has had to move back in with his parents due to his condition, added: “Unfortunately it’s not a long-term fix and I’m still on the donor list awaiting the perfect match.

“I feel great at the minute. I can’t do the physical exercise I used to but my power pack is like a miracle. It’s completely changed my life.

“It will be nice to go sleep and not have to worry about power cuts and flat batteries. I’m sure that when the day comes, it will take a bit of getting used to, not having to carry a back pack full of batteries around.”