The first attempt
On December 6th, 1967, a quite sad and important event happened. The very first pediatric heart transplant was attempted.
Dr. Adrian Kantrowitz and his team performed the surgery at the Maimonides Medical Center in New York. Unfortunately, the infant recipient, a 19-day-old baby called Jamie Scudero, did only survive for 6 hours.
This was also the first human-to-human transplant in the United States.
The first success
It would take another 16 years for the first success to finally happen. The date was June 9, 1984, and this time the scenario would be in Denver, Colorado. A 4-year-old boy, called James Lovette, received his new heart from another 4-year-old boy, which endured six years until he needed a second heart transplant.
Because of a new drug called cyclosporine, James lived a great life until he was 21 years-old, when he passed away in his sleep.
Although young, he enjoyed life for 17 more years than he would, without his two heart transplants.
The numbers worldwide
Every year, around 600 hundred heart transplants happen in kids from 0 to 17 years old. This represents roughly 12% of all heart transplants in any age. The primary reason for a pediatric heart transplant is congenital malformation.
There are lots of new techniques and technologies being developed to improve heart transplants, including using hearts from animals or artificial ones printed in 3D. But the reality is that those recent developments are still fairly far to be as successful as the traditional human-to-human transplant.
Be a donor!
As the father of a heart transplanted kid, my family and I experienced firsthand the pain and the joy of the entire process which culminated with my son’s life being saved by a donor family. It is indescribable.
The most lasting and loving gesture any person can do is to become an organ donor. Please, if you are not a donor, go to https://www.organdonor.gov/ and register yourself.
Give the gift of life!