Entries in Heart Transplant (9)


Awaiting Heart Transplant, Fla. Teen Celebrates Graduation from Hospital

Kelly Haberman(GAINESVILLE, Fla.) -- Taylor Haberman may not have gotten to dance at her high school prom or walk down the stage to accept her diploma at graduation, but thanks to the help of an adolescent palliative care organization, she was still able to celebrate those milestones from the Gainesville, Fla., hospital where she is awaiting a heart transplant.

Through a five-camera stream, the 18-year-old from St. Johns, Fla., accepted her diploma from the principal of Bartram Trail High School in real time and saw her peers graduate on Saturday afternoon, thanks to a live video feed that broadcast the graduation to the hospital's conference room.

Taylor's peers also got a glimpse of their fellow graduate thanks to one of her sisters, who used video calling on her iPad to "walk" Taylor across the stage and once she had graduated, held up the device with Taylor on the other end so the senior class could see her face.

The entire graduating class even wore hearts on their gowns to honor their classmate.

"She was ecstatic. Just like any other senior, she did it," Taylor's mother, Kelly Haberman told ABC News. "While it was nothing like being with your own graduating class, it was the next best thing."

Taylor has been waiting to receive a heart transplant for six months at University of Florida Health Shands Children's Hospital in Gainesville. She was born with congenital heart disease, her mother said. While Taylor had several corrective surgeries as a toddler, her condition worsened around the end of her junior year in high school.

"It was coming down to the last straw of what we could actually do for her," Haberman said. "[Being admitted] into the hospital was the last alternative."

Haberman said after months of treatments at home at the start of her senior year, Taylor was admitted to the hospital in January in hopes of getting a heart transplant.

"In order for [Taylor] to be pretty high on the transplant list, she needed to be in-patient," she said. "As far as organ donors, she could wait for years and years if she sat at home."

Haberman said adjusting to hospital life was a difficult transition for her daughter, especially because she realized she would have to miss out on the pivotal events that often characterize a teenager's high school experience.

"You look forward to your senior year, that's when all the fun is," Haberman said. "It was a huge transition for her. She's leaving all her friends, she's missing everything."

But thanks to Streetlight, a non-profit peer support group organization that partners pre-med students with young adults in the hospital, Taylor was able to still enjoy those events, albeit from within the hospital.

"When she couldn't go to the prom, they threw a prom there for her and brought the prom to her," Haberman said. "We were hoping that [her doctors] were going to let her out of the hospital for the day to attend graduation."

But when clearances fell through, Streetlight director Rebecca Brown told ABC News that the organization began to think of ways to help make Taylor's graduation just as meaningful as her prom had been.

"She really wanted the heart before her graduation. We were hopeful it would come in, but it didn't," Brown said. "So we started thinking about how we could do this."

Brown said Taylor told her she wanted her graduation live-streamed into the hospital so she could watch it, as well as accept her diploma virtually.

"Streetlight and Bartram [Trail High School] stepped in and made it all happen yesterday," Haberman said. "I'm blessed that everybody has made it as much of a senior year as possible."

Taylor's family as well as members of the Streetlight team gathered in the hospital's conference room Saturday to watch and participate in her high school graduation, which went off without a hitch.

"We were all there screaming and cheering for her in the room we had set up and decorated for her graduation," Brown said. "We had a really big party after the actual graduation. The room didn't clear out until 7:30 p.m."

As Taylor waits to be taken off the transplant list, her mother said she plans to take online classes to stay busy. She eventually wants to study nursing at the University of Florida in Gainesville, her mother said. For a graduation present, she's asked for a trip to New York City as soon as she's out of the hospital, Haberman said.

"At this point, it's just a waiting game," Haberman said. "We're waiting for that call to come in."

Copyright 2013 ABC NewsRadio


Dying Maryland Teen Adjusting Well to Classmate's Heart

Nicole Bruns-Kirby | Marion Family Photo(PASADENA, MD.) -- When the doctor showed up at his hospital bed and told Kyle Wilkerson that she had good news -- that she had a heart for the Maryland teenager --  Kyle had a suspicion. Mom Denise Wilkerson says her 15-year-old son looked up at the cardiologist and asked, "Is it Skylar's heart?"

Skylar Marion, a fellow ninth-grader and acquaintance of Kyle's had died from injuries suffered days earlier in a hit-and-run accident. After the accident, Skylar, 15, was rushed to the shock-trauma center at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, where he was placed on life support.

It was the same hospital where Kyle had spent two months being treated for heart failure. His heart was so badly damaged from a rare genetic condition that he had suffered a stroke from a blood clot, and doctors had to install a heart pump to keep him alive until they could find a donor.

As Skylar's father, Mike Marion, was making the wrenching decision to remove his son from life support, he learned about Kyle, a teen from their town of Pasadena, Md., who needed a heart. Marion didn't know Kyle directly, although it turned out his son did.

Marion said he went into Skylar's hospital room and faced his unresponsive son. "I asked him if it was OK to give that boy his heart, and I just felt a lift come off my shoulders, and I just felt, OK. It seemed like it was fine."

An emotional Wilkerson said, "In my heart, part of it broke. I had already been sad that Skylar didn't make it. It just overwhelmed me thinking this is such a miracle."

Authorities are still looking for the hit-and-run driver.

There are more than 2,000 heart transplants in the United States every year, and so-called directed donations of hearts are extremely rare, only two or three a year, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing.

Baltimore cardiologist Dr. Erika Feller, who treated Kyle, called this "a crazy story." There was no guarantee the heart would work for Kyle. Feller had already rejected a few other hearts that weren't a good match.

"It has to be the right blood type, and it has to be the right size, generally, and it just so happened both were prefect," said Feller, the medical director of heart transplants at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

So, on April 16, Dr. Sunjay Kaushal, the director of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery at the Baltimore hospital, carefully took out Kyle's damaged heart, and replaced it with the heart of a boy who lived just down the street, went to the same high school and shared a love of trick bike-riding with Kyle.

"His prognosis is excellent," Kaushal said. "We are really optimistic."

Denise Wilkerson met Mike Marion this week, the man who donated his son's heart. "He didn't cry," she said. "He hugged me. He thanked me. He thanked me like I did something for him."

Marion said, "It's a gift that her son gets to live. That makes Skylar a part of him, still living."

For the Wilkerson family, this is their second miracle heart. Eight years ago, Kyle's dad, Randy Wilkerson, suffered atrial fibrillation, a sudden irregular heartbeat. That is when doctors discovered that the then 44-year-old man was stricken with familial dilated cardiomyopathy, an inherited disease that causes heart failure.

The family knew then that Kyle would, one day, also likely need a heart transplant, just like his dad. But they never expected his heart to fail at such a young age.

"What is surprising is how quickly he needed the heart," Dr. Kaushal said. "The father needed it in his 40s, and he needed it in teenage years."

Kyle's dad had his own heart pump installed in 2005 and went on the transplant list. His doctor was Erika Feller, the same cardiologist who later treated his son. Months after getting his heart pump, Wilkerson got his own news from Feller: There was a heart waiting for him.

"It is pretty rare that the cardiomyopathy is so bad in both father and son to require something as significant as a heart transplant," Dr. Feller said. "It is pretty unusual."

Her husband's surgery and successful recovery gave Denise Wilkerson great comfort. She thought Kyle was in good hands at the University of Maryland Medical Center, although he would be the first pediatric heart transplant patient there under a new program established by Dr. Kaushal.

She praised the doctors and their care. "I have my two guys because of them," she said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Teen Takes Artificial Heart to School as She Waits for Transplant

Boston Children's Hospital(NEW YORK) -- Kyah DeSimone loves hip-hop dance, basketball, sleepovers and fashion.  But the 13-year-old Bostonian carries a weight on her shoulder that few middle schoolers can imagine: the black purse that powers her partially artificial heart, and the looming prospect of a heart transplant.

Diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy at age 10, Kyah lived with the slow stretching of her heart until it became too weak to pump.  In October 2012, she was rushed from a friend's sleepover to a local hospital.

"I'm a nursing student, and I knew it was heart failure when I saw it," said Kyah's mom, Danielle DeSimone, recalling the horror of spotting the textbook pattern on Kyah's electrocardiogram.

Kyah was transferred to Boston Children's Hospital, where doctors stabilized her with drugs.  But it was a temporary fix.  She needed a new heart.  And until one came, there was only one option: a titanium pump, yet to be approved for children in the U.S., surgically implanted in her chest.

"In the past, we would just allow these kids to pass peacefully," said Dr. Christina VanderPluym, a pediatric cardiologist at Boston Children's Hospital.  "But now we have ventricular assist devices small enough to put in children, and that's what we were able to use in Kyah."

Perhaps most famous for carrying ventricular assist devices, or VADs, include former Vice President Dick Cheney through his 20-month wait for a transplant.  But the small, implantable device doctors wanted for Kyah was not approved for pediatric patients.

"We had to ask for an emergency exemption," said VanderPluym, recalling the rush to file paperwork with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before they could order the device and learn how to use it.  "It took a lot of work by lot of different people to make this happen."

The implant helped Kyah's cardiac output -- the volume of blood pumping through her heart -- but she wasn't out of the woods yet.  Within a week, she developed a blood clot, requiring open heart surgery.  She also battled infections and eerie hallucinations from the medications, according to her mom.

After a two-month stay in the hospital, Kyah got to go home.  And this week, she returned to school -- a first for a pediatric VAD patient, according to VanderPluym, who talked to Kyah's classmates about the life-saving power pack she wears over her shoulder, which connects to her artificial heart through a wire into her abdomen.

Inside the black bag, a battery pack and a monitor the size of an iPod keep the pump running smoothly as Kyah's name rises on the transplant waiting list.

When she's at home, Kyah can plug herself into the wall.  If there's a power outage, the city has a backup generator on standby, in case her four back-up batteries run out.  And if she's in a car, she can use an adapter to get power from the cigarette lighter.

The artificial heart, called a Heartware Ventricular System, was FDA-approved for use in kids Nov. 20, 2012 -- nine days after Kyah became one of a handful of American kids using the pump as a "bridge" to a transplant.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Woman Runs Marathon After Surviving Breast Cancer, Heart Transplant

Toni Wild(NEW ORLEANS) -- Toni Wild finished her first marathon on Sunday, an impressive feat for anybody. Still, what makes Wild’s accomplishment so incredible is that she had to overcome two bouts with breast cancer and heart failure to run it.

Wild, 50, was first diagnosed with breast cancer at age 29 in 1992. Chemotherapy and radiation left her cancer-free for five years. Tragically, a mere week after she had been given a clean bill of health, her husband was struck and killed by a car while changing a tire during a trip the two of them had taken.

Doctors asked whether Wild wanted to donate his organs, something they'd never talked about before.

"I made that decision," she said. "I was actually able to provide three families with a second chance at life.”

Her breast cancer came back a year after that. She would have to undergo more chemotherapy and radiation, but once again she was cancer-free by 1998.

However, all that chemotherapy had done damage to her heart. After an initial struggle to get doctors to listen to her suspicion that she had more than a minor illness, she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure,  three months after her last round of chemotherapy. Her heart wasn't able to pump enough blood to the rest of her body.

For the next 11 years, Wild lived with varying signs and symptoms of heart failure, but medications and regular rest allowed her to live normally. The extreme fatigue and shortness of breath returned when she was 46. Wild's heart was worn out, and if she didn't get a heart transplant, she would die.

Only a week after doctors put her on the transplant list, the phone rang. She had a heart.

“It makes me realize there's so much truth in the statement of 'paying it forward,'" she said. "In 1997, when I decided to donate my husband's organs, I had absolutely no idea, would not even fathom the thought that, years down the road, I would find myself in that exact situation of needing a heart."

Now, she runs simply because she can. She says her donor allowed her to do something she never thought possible, so she doesn't say, "I ran seven half marathons," she says, "We ran seven half marathons."

On Sunday, four years after the transplant, she ran her first full marathon, called Rock 'n' Roll New Orleans. It took her six hours and 36 minutes because a virus kept her from training for 23 days before the race, but she finished.

"It was absolutely the most incredible day of my life," she said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Heart Transplant Sparks Romance Between Donor’s Sister and Recipient

ABC News(SEATTLE) -- A heart transplant has sparked a romance between the donor’s sister and the recipient.

“I didn’t have any words to describe it, it was just this, you know, connection,” Erin Roberts said.

Erin’s brother, Kellen Roberts, was on a trip to Sioux Falls, S.D., when he hit his head on March 7, 2005.

The free-spirited Seattle resident, who was an organ donor, died in South Dakota.  In nearby Minneapolis, 17-year-old Connor Rabinowitz was waiting, hoping for a new heart.

“I just wish he could know how grateful I am for him,” Rabinowitz said.

The transplant was a success, and with a second chance at life, Rabinowitz said he needed to find out about the man who saved him.

When Connor and Kellen’s sister, Erin, met for the first time, they told said they fell in love instantly.

The couple shared their story with ABC News’ Seattle affiliate KOMO.

“I have it vividly in my head… just looking over, feeling her mom hug me, and just staring into her eyes,” Connor said.

For Erin, the moment was “priceless”.

“To know that a part of something you loved so much can continue on, but not just continue on in existence, but be the life force for someone else,” she said. “I don’t know if there’s any words to describe that.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Man’s Failing Heart Heals Itself on Day of Emergency Transplant

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A miraculous thing happened the day Michael Crowe was set to receive a potentially life-saving heart transplant.  Doctors had determined the surgery would be ineffective, but his heart suddenly started beating again.

Crowe, a 23-year-old pharmacy student from Omaha, Neb., had been diagnosed with acute myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, likely caused by a viral infection.  When his mother brought him to the emergency room at his local hospital on Aug. 14, doctors found his heart was only functioning at about 25 percent efficiency.  The hospital referred him to the Nebraska Medical Center, and by the time he was admitted to the intensive care unit there, his heart’s efficiency had dropped below 10 percent.

“If he had come to us any later, his heart would have just stopped,” Dr. John Um, Surgical Director of Heart Transplantation at Nebraska Medical Center told ABC News.

Doctors hooked Crowe up to a heart-lung machine that would essentially act as his heart for him, pumping blood throughout his body.

“When the heart stops, that’s defined as clinical death,” Dr. Um said.  “In this case, his body only stayed alive because the machine was pumping his blood for him.”

Crowe was immediately placed on a list for an emergency heart transplant, and remained on the heart-lung machine in a medically induced coma until an appropriate donor heart became available.

After nearly three weeks, a heart was found.  The good news was followed by bad, though: tests revealed he had contracted a blood infection.  Doctors said he probably would not survive the transplant surgery.

About an hour later, one of his doctors noticed something strange -- his blood pressure was going up, something that would be impossible if his body was only receiving blood through the machine.

“His heart started working again on its own,” Dr. Um told ABC.  “The left side of his heart was pumping blood again.  The right side was still weak, so we slowly eased him off the machine.  At this point, he was in pretty good shape.”

Dr. Um said this was the first time one of his patients has been on an external heart-lung machine for this long before his heart started beating again.

“He’s home now, doing great,” Dr. Um said.  “He’s really, really lucky.”

In the simplest terms, Dr. Um explained, the heart got sick, triggering an immune response that shut the heart down to fight the infection, and eventually healed itself.  Technology kept Crowe’s body alive while his heart healed.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Former VP Cheney: Heart Transplant ‘Unbelievable’ Gift

File photo. (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)(WASHINGTON) -- Former Vice President Dick Cheney expressed his gratitude Monday to the family that donated the organ he received during a heart transplant at the end of March.

“It’s the kind of gift that’s unbelievable,” Cheney said, speaking at length to student interns at the Washington Center, which broadcast on CSPAN. Despite the recent surgery, Cheney was alert and engaged, though his voice was seemed a bit huskier than usual.

Cheney was released from Fairfax Hospital in Virginia April 3. He said following the surgery his health is the best it has been in a long time.

Cheney said he was “very, very fortunate to receive” the heart. He emphasized that when one person becomes a donor, the recovered organs can “help several people, not just one…eight or 10 people who benefit.”

The New York Organ Donor Network says one organ donor can “save up to eight lives” and donating tissues and corneas can help “up to 50 people.”

Cheney said he would “encourage people to participate” in the organ donor program, but he said, “that’s a personal decision, of course.”

Cheney himself is an organ donor, saying his license has a red heart to indicate that.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Is Dick Cheney Too Old for a Heart Transplant?

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- As Dick Cheney recovers from heart transplant surgery, questions are being raised about whether the former vice president is too old for a new heart.

Cheney, 71, who received the new heart on Saturday at a hospital in Falls Church, Va., has been on the cardiac transplant list for more than 20 months.

Some medical centers will not perform a heart transplant on patients over 65, but other major centers will perform transplants on patients who are as old as 72.

In any case, transplants at Cheney's age are not unheard of: Last year 332 heart transplants were performed on people over 65, and according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, 14 percent of recipients are over the age of 65.

"Patients from 18 all the way up to 71 years old, are on the same national list and you're listed on the basis of medical urgency and then how long you've been waiting," said Dr. Jonathan Chen, an adjunct associate professor of surgery at Columbia University in New York.

ABC News chief medical editor Dr. Richard Besser said the average waiting time for a heart transplant at UCLA Medical Center is three to six months.  But Cheney waited for more than 20 months to receive a new heart.  Experts differ on whether the 20-month wait is longer than normal.

"Twenty months, as an outpatient, [is] not [an] unusually long wait," Dr. Marrick Kukin, director of heart failure at St. Lukes Roosevelt in New York said.  But Dr. Keith Aaronson, medical director of the heart failure program at the University of Michigan said 20 months "is a relatively long waiting time for an LVAD recipient to wait for a heart transplant."

A Left Ventricular Assist Device, or LVAD, is an auxiliary pump, used when a patient's own heart is unable to pump effectively to meet the body's needs.  It can be used as a bridge to get someone to transplant, a bridge while waiting to determine if someone will be a transplant candidate, or as an end in itself.

Aaronson said Cheney might have waited because he may have had kidney dysfunction or pulmonary hypertension at the time his LVAD was implanted.  These conditions are common in patients with advanced heart failure but sometimes improve after placement of an LVAD and make previously ineligible patients "acceptable candidates" for transplant, he said.

Because Cheney has had two prior heart surgeries, the immediate period after his heart transplant is critical.  The majority of patients die from acute rejection, infection or complications of surgery.

If his heart should fail, Cheney would have two options: Undergo another transplant, which few centers would offer for a candidate of his age; or have another LVAD implanted, according to Dr. Mary Norin Walsh, director of cardiac transplantation at St. Vincent Hospital in Indiana.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Convicted New York Rapist Next in Line for Heart Transplant

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(AUBURN, N.Y.) -- Convicted rapist Kenneth Pike, of Auburn, New York, is expected to undergo a life-saving heart transplant that could cost up to $800,000 -- a price that will be paid courtesy of New York state taxpayers.

The expense has outraged many crime victim advocates and community members, who say they cannot understand how the justice system can provide big-tag services for convicted felons arguably at the expense of innocent patients.

"From a moral standpoint I think everyone should have a chance at life," said Carol Speach, a media sales professional in Auburn.  "But realistically, I think no he shouldn't.  I know innocent people with health problems who have medical bills coming out of their ears and can't afford it."

The question has been the talk of the small suburban New York town: Should taxpayers shell out for convicted criminals to receive services that some payers could probably never afford themselves?

"We do think that prisoners are treated much better than those on the outside," said Speach, who also suggested that Pike and his family should foot a larger portion of the bill.

"Everyone else is expected to pay for some of their health care," she said.

And the question of whether prisoners should receive equal, if not better, health care than law-abiding citizens has been the heart of a decades-long debate among medical ethicists.

Transplant centers have the right to turn patients away, but physicians are required to care for every patient they see, according to Art Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics and the Sydney D. Caplan Professor of Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

In 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prisoners were entitled to the same medical and dental treatment as everyone else in their community.  Prisons that withhold necessary care from inmates can be held liable for violating constitutional bans against cruel and unusual punishment.

Pike, 55, was convicted of sexually assaulting a teenage relative.  He has already served 15 years of an 18 to 40-year sentence and is eligible for parole in 2013.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio