North American Pediatric Heart-Assist Record Broken at Packard Children’s Hospital
Unusual honor capped by successful heart transplant
For Release: February 10, 2006STANFORD, Calif --
It’s a record with risks. Contact with non-natural substances like the plastic and metal parts of the device make blood more likely to clot, and anti-clotting medications increase the chance of dangerous bleeding. Jason amazed his doctors by surviving these and several other life-threatening complications during his nearly eight-month wait. The most recent, a major stroke that robbed him of his ability to move and speak, occurred only a month ago.
Things looked grim. “The doctors told us that unless he recovered significantly it was unlikely that he would ever get a transplant,” says Jason’s father, Guanglin Zhao. “At one point we felt that we were at the end of the road, but the doctors and nurses never gave up.”
The stroke meant that Jason had to be removed from the transplant list. Then, he astounded everyone with an unbelievably rapid recovery that included talking and moving. He was re-listed just two weeks ago. Now his parents and his Packard Children’s ‘family’ of doctors, nurses and staff are celebrating the beating of Jason’s new heart.
Jason owes his life not just to the Berlin Heart and the donor’s family, but also to Norman Shumway, MD, PhD. In a poignant twist, Shumway, who performed the first adult heart transplant in the U.S. in 1968, passed away this morning at his home in Palo Alto, California, just blocks from Packard Children’s. Cardiothoracic surgeon Bruce Reitz, MD, who performed Jason’s eight-hour transplant, is the Norman E. Shumway Professor in Cardiovascular Surgery at Stanford’s Medical School. More information about Shumway’s career can be found at http://mednews.stanford.edu/shumway/main.html.
“Although the Berlin Heart has been lifesaving for a number of patients here, there is no long-term substitute for a real heart,” says Rosenthal. Five other Packard Children’s patients have used the device since July 2004, when 5-month-old Miles Coulson became the youngest infant in the country to be placed on a Berlin Heart.
Jason’s harrowing journey began about 18 months ago when his parents noticed that he had lost his appetite and seemed unusually tired. An X-ray revealed that his heart was abnormally large — a condition called cardiomyopathy that can occur for a variety of reasons in children and adults. The weakened muscle was not able to pump blood efficiently throughout his body.
The condition can sometimes be managed with medication, but by May 2005 it had become apparent that Jason would need a heart transplant. When he suffered a cardiac arrest in June, Rosenthal and his colleagues at Packard Children’s — director of the pediatric intensive care unit Stephen Roth, MD, and pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon Marc Pelletier, MD — knew they needed some way to support Jason’s failing heart until a suitable donor organ could be found.
Although it’s one of the few pumps small enough for infants and children, the German-made Berlin Heart is not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration for routine use in this country. Individual waivers are granted by the FDA on a case-by-case basis. Jason was temporarily placed on a heart-lung bypass machine until the device could be implanted by Pelletier on June 18.
Jason actually had two Berlin Heart pumps—one to supplement the function of the left ventricle, which pumps blood throughout the body, and another to give a boost to the right, which sends blood to the lungs. The hockey puck-sized pumps are housed outside the body and connected to the heart by tubes snaking through the chest wall. Wheeling the device around the hospital, Jason captured a lot of attention, and many hearts.
“We’re so glad and sad at the same time,” says Zhao. “Without this machine, Jason would have died a long time ago. But in order for him to get a heart another child had to die. It’s such a rollercoaster. We’re so thankful.”
Family and physicians will meet the media 1pm-2pm PST on Monday, February 13, Packard Children’s Hospital, 725 Welch Rd. in Palo Alto. Photos of Jason prior and post-transplant will be provided. Also available will be video of a Berlin Heart surgery and video of Jason post-transplant. Visit Jason Zhao’s Web page at Packard Children’s at www.jason.lpch.org.
About Lucile Packard Children's Hospital
Ranked as one of the nation's top 10 pediatric hospitals by US News & World Report, Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford is a 264-bed hospital devoted to the care of children and expectant mothers. Providing pediatric and obstetric medical and surgical services and associated with the Stanford School of Medicine, Packard Children's Hospital offers patients locally, regionally and nationally the full range of health-care programs and services from preventive and routine care to the diagnosis and treatment of serious illness and injury. For more information, visit http://www.lpch.org.
Media ContactRobert Dicks
Media ContactTodd Kleinheinz