Danny Johnston  /  AP file
Dr. Jonathan Drummond-Webb performed the first successful implant of a miniature heart pump in a 14-year-old boy in September. Drummond-Webb was found dead of a suicide on Dec. 26.
updated 12/28/2004 8:32:25 AM ET 2004-12-28T13:32:25

Dr. Jonathan Drummond-Webb, a heart surgeon whose work was the focus of a four-part television series and who successfully implanted a life-saving miniature heart pump in a child, was found dead Sunday of a suicide. He was 45.

Drummond-Webb took an overdose of medication and left a note for his wife, who discovered the body, according to Arkansas Children’s Hospital. The hospital said friends believe the surgeon suffered a sudden bout of depression.

Dr. Jonathan Bates, chief executive officer of Arkansas Children’s Hospital, said Drummond-Webb worked tirelessly to save his patients.

“Some would say they saved 98 out of 100,” Bates said Sunday. “He looked at it and said I lost two out of 100.”

Drummond-Webb, chief of pediatric and congenital cardiac surgery at the hospital, earned a national reputation. In 2002, his work was the subject of a four-part ABC News documentary mini-series. The network had said it was attracted by Drummond-Webb’s record at the time: 830 surgeries in 18 months with a 2 percent mortality rate.

In September, Drummond-Webb performed the first successful implant of a miniature heart pump in a 14-year-old boy with a heart defect, keeping him alive until a heart transplant was possible. The teen, Travis Marcus, was released from the hospital Thursday.

Travis’ father, Rick Marcus, said the family talked to Drummond-Webb by telephone on Christmas and nothing seemed wrong.

“He was wonderful to the kids. The kids meant everything to him,” Marcus said. “You don’t expect someone with that kind of vitality won’t be with us anymore.”

He said his son was devastated by word of the death, and had ended the Christmas Day conversation by saying, “I’ll see you, boss,” his nickname for Drummond-Webb.

In 2002, Drummond-Webb said the only reason he allowed ABC’s cameras to follow him around for the four-part series on its “Primetime” news show was to get the message out about organ donation.

Earlier this week, the surgeon told The Associated Press: “This is a high-risk business. We see children walking out, we also see children who do not make it.”

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