WINDSOR (CBS SF) — Doctors say one Bay Area teen is a hero and pioneer for a life-saving device that’s helping replace his failing heart.

Seventeen-year-old TJ Balliao looks healthy at first glance and says he feels great even though he has heart failure.

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It’s because of a ventricular assist device (VAD) that was implanted in his heart to pump blood through his body.

At first, the Balliao family thought the pump would only keep him alive until a donor heart became available. But the VAD enabled him to recover so strongly that his doctors at Stanford gave him the option to go home with it and delay a transplant.

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Doctors says he’s one of the first pediatric patients to use it indefinitely.

“I was in pretty bad condition when I came in here,” Balliao said. “So they pushed this, so I can wait even longer for a heart transplant.”

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For TJ, wearing the pump was an opportunity to graduate with his high school class at Piner High School in Santa Rosa. And he’s helping others by allowing those who can’t live on the device get the heart they need before him.