Big John Murray: The Man with a Big Heart

Our tech helped him manage heart failure while awaiting a life-changing transplant. 

Big John Murray: The Man with a Big Heart

Healthy Heart|Nov.01, 2023

You probably know somebody named John. After all, there are over 5 million of them in the U.S. alone.

But you’ve never met one like John Murray, otherwise known as “Big John.”

A rock star and wrestler who’s warmhearted and loves a good romance film. A man who exudes “tough guy” in persona and build but is a family-described “huge teddy bear” that aims to make someone smile each day.

You might recognize Murray from the reality TV show “Rock of Love with Bret Michaels,” where he was Michaels’ bodyguard while the rock band Poison was on tour. He was part of the security detail for multiple bands and part of Ohio’s professional wrestling scene, too.

He says he was living “the life” in the Hollywood years — and he lived it big.

But rocking out at shows and fighting in the ring didn’t leave even a minute to think about his health. “When I was in the music business, I was the life of the party,” he said. “I didn’t think about how that life could impact my heart — until I was told I had dilated cardiomyopathy.”

Dilated cardiomyopathy: in other words, his heart muscles were becoming thinner, making the pumping chambers of the heart much larger. That made his heart weaker since it was harder to pump blood, and a weakened heart put him at risk for heart failure.

Help arrived in 2018 when he received our CardioMEMS HF System. Then, in 2021, he received our HeartMate 3 Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD, or heart pump), forming a combo Murray called “electric.”

“It left me feeling so good,” he said. The LVAD helped his heart pump normally again, and the CardioMEMS Sensor was a paper-clip-sized technology that gave his doctor insights into how his heart was performing.

“These formed the bridge to the day I got my heart transplant,” Murray said. “Even though my LVAD was eventually removed, CardioMEMS has stayed with me. It’s continuing to give me time back in my life — it gave me a second chance at life. And I’m not going to waste it.”

New Heart, New Path Forward

Most people wouldn’t accept a call from a number they don’t recognize. Luckily for Murray, he happened to pick up the phone at just the right time.

“I'm sick. I’m trying to go to bed. My phone starts ringing, and I ask who it is, and she says, ‘Tiffany,’” he recalled. “And I don’t know any Tiffany.”

A beat. “‘Do you want a heart, John?’”

Murray hopped into the car and drove straight to Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular Institute, which is known as one of the top hospitals for cardiology and heart surgery. The surgery prep began. Then, it all stopped – his doctor had to halt the process at the last minute due to a situation with the heart donor.

Then, he got more news. As he was coming out of anesthesia, his cardiac team identified a heart that would work. And on March 17, 2023, he received his heart transplant.

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing, but Murray looks back with a smile, some laughter, and some gravitas.

“After the transplant, I wasn’t perfect,” he said. “I got pneumonia. I broke my leg. I still deal with the psychological stress. But every day, I say thank you to my donor angel who gave me this heart and a new lease on life, because I want to show that I was worthy of it.”

A Heart-to-Heart

Murray says he’s an open book about his experience, and he’s working hard to educate people about his heart health journey — and the importance of signing up to be an organ donor.

While he’s continuing his advocacy, he’s also still keeping track of his heart with the help of CardioMEMS and his new care team in Tennessee. “I’m grateful I have help to keep me in good health,” he said. “After a life of traveling and supporting a family, I finally have the time to focus on myself — including my heart — and what I want in life.”

Murray has lived a big life. And he wants to inspire others to live big, too, and to not take what they have for granted.

“Don’t forget what you’ve been through. And don’t forget about what others have been through to get you to where you are now,” he said. “Life is so much better without being bitter and angry all the time, and it’s O.K. to focus on you.”

In a crowd of more than 5 million Johns, look up to Big John. The man with a big heart.

These materials are not intended to replace your doctor's advice or information. For any questions or concerns you may have regarding the medical procedures, devices and/or your personal health, please discuss these with your physician.

This testimonial relays an account of an individual's response to the treatment. This patient's account is genuine, typical, and documented. However, it does not provide any indication, guide, warranty or guarantee as to the response other persons may have to the treatment. Responses to the treatment discussed can and do vary and are specific to the individual patient.


HeartMate 3 Left Ventricular Assist System


By Prescription Only

Brief Summary: Prior to using these devices, please review the Instructions for Use for a complete listing of indications, contraindications, warnings, precautions, potential adverse events and directions for use.

CardioMEMS™ HF System Indications and Usage: The CardioMEMS HF System is indicated for wirelessly measuring and monitoring pulmonary artery pressure and heart rate in NYHA Class II or III heart failure patients who either have been hospitalized for heart failure in the previous year and/or have elevated natriuretic peptides. The hemodynamic data are used by physicians for heart failure management with the goal of controlling pulmonary artery pressures and reducing heart failure hospitalizations.

Contraindications: The CardioMEMS™ HF System is contraindicated for patients with an inability to take dual antiplatelet or anticoagulants for one month post implant.

CardioMEMS™ HF System Potential Adverse Events:  Potential adverse events associated with the implantation procedure include, but are not limited to, the following: air embolism, allergic reaction, infection, delayed wound healing, arrhythmias, bleeding, hemoptysis, hematoma, nausea, cerebrovascular accident, thrombus, cardiovascular injury, myocardial infarction, death, embolization, thermal burn, cardiac perforation, pneumothorax, thoracic duct injury and hemothorax.

myCardioMEMS™ Mobile App Limitations: Patients must use their own Apple‡ or Android‡ mobile device to receive and transmit information to the myCardioMEMS™ Mobile App. To do so the device must be powered on, app must be installed and data coverage (cellular or Wi-Fi‡) available. The myCardioMEMS™ App can provide notification of medication adjustments and reminders, requests for lab work and acknowledgment that the PA pressure readings have been received. However there are many internal and external factors that can hinder, delay, or prevent acquisition and delivery of the notifications and patient information as intended by the clinician. These factors include: patient environment, data services, mobile device operating system and settings, clinic environment, schedule/configuration changes, or data processing.

HeartMate 3 Left Ventricular Assist System

Indications: The HeartMate 3 Left Ventricular Assist System is indicated for providing short- and long-term mechanical circulatory support (e.g., as bridge to transplant or myocardial recovery, or destination therapy) in adult and pediatric patients with advanced refractory left ventricular heart failure and with an appropriate body surface area.

Contraindications: The HeartMate 3 Left Ventricular Assist System is contraindicated for patients who cannot tolerate, or who are allergic to, anticoagulation therapy.

Adverse Events: Adverse events that may be associated with the use of the HeartMate 3™ Left Ventricular Assist System are: death, bleeding, cardiac arrhythmia, localized infection, right heart failure, respiratory failure, device malfunctions, driveline infection, renal dysfunction, sepsis, stroke, other neurological event (not stroke-related), hepatic dysfunction, psychiatric episode, venous thromboembolism, hypertension, arterial non-central nervous system (CNS) thromboembolism, pericardial fluid collection, pump pocket or pseudo pocket infection, myocardial infarction, wound dehiscence, hemolysis (not associated with suspected device thrombosis) or pump thrombosis.

HeartMate 3 Coring Tool

Indications: For the HeartMate 3 Left Ventricular Assist System (LVAS) Indications for Use, please refer to the HeartMate 3 LVAS Instructions for Use. The HeartMate 3™ Coring Tool is intended for use with the HeartMate 3 LVAS. The HeartMate 3 Coring Tool provides a means to resect a plug of myocardium from the left ventricle, which allows for HeartMate 3 inflow cannula insertion.

Contraindications: The use of the HeartMate 3 Coring Tool is contraindicated in patients who are contraindicated for HeartMate 3 Left Ventricular Assist System (LVAS) therapy.

Adverse Events: The following adverse events may be associated with the use of the HeartMate 3 Coring Tool. Adverse events are listed in anticipated decreasing order of frequency, except for death, which appears first as it is a non-reversible complication: death, bleeding (perioperative or late), local infection, local ischemia, cardiac arrhythmia, stroke, peripheral thromboembolic event, neurologic dysfunction, hemolysis, sepsis.