A man in China without a natural heartbeat has become a popular stand-up comedian using material about his miraculous second chance after receiving an artificial heart transplant three years ago.
A recipient of one of the first artificial hearts developed in China, 41-year-old Wang Shiqi, from Liaoning province in northeastern China, has been drawing popular acclaim for his comedy shows about his extraordinary recovery after coming so close to death.
The maths teacher took up a second career in stand-up comedy during his fight with a type of heart disease. He shot to fame after an appearance on the hit mainland television stand-up comedy competition series Rock&Roast last month.
Wang was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy in 2004, a heart muscle disease that makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body. It was not until 2019 that he finally received an artificial heart after waiting in vain for a decade for a suitable human heart donor.
Just three years ago, Wang was facing probable death as his heart, liver and kidneys began to fail. It was then that he decided to allow doctors to implant an artificial heart while it was still in the clinical trial phase.
Powered by a rechargeable battery carried on his back, the artificial heart allowed Wang to resume a normal life, including riding a bike for 15km every two days, he said.
“People often said to me after learning my story - ‘Add oil (a Chinese expression of encouragement), man!’, I replied ‘I’m not powered by oil, but by electricity’,” he said in one of his famous stage jokes.
Wang made his debut as a stand-up comedian in 2018 after his deteriorating health forced him to abandon most of his previous social activities and hobbies.
“I didn’t know what to say in my show at all in the beginning. I couldn’t attract the audience,” he told the Life Times. “Although it was awkward, I felt very happy with myself.”
Wang always travels with extra batteries and now performs in various cities across China as a professional comedian.
“I chose this profession because I want more people with similar diseases to mine to see that if I can do it, they must not give up. I hope more patients will benefit from this technology in the near future,” he said.
In 2017, Chinese doctors for the first time put a small, maglev artificial heart into a patient.
Since then, more than 200 surgeries of this kind have been performed in 33 hospitals across the country, professor Hu Shengshou, a leading expert in the field, told the China Heart Congress 2022 last month.
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.