“You never really think about not getting it done, to be honest with you. Doing that many heart transplants in a row can make for a very busy time, but it’s a good feeling and really a team effort,” commented the McGowan Institute faculty member Peter Wearden, MD, PhD, after a week of four heart transplants at Children’s Hospital—the busiest week ever for Children’s cardiac surgeons.
The week’s work schedule started with Sean and ended with Tete. Brittany and John Paul were in the middle. One of the recipients was released from school early and another electronically “pinged” through a cell phone by Butler County police while he and his mom attended a Slippery Rock University jazz festival. When you’re on the heart transplant list, there’s no telling where you might be when your new heart becomes available.
Moms, dads, brothers, sisters, and friends are all vigilant before and after surgery along with the entire hospital transplant team involved with each operation. That team includes surgeons, cardiologists, pulmonologists, nurses, social workers, to name just a few.
Today, Sean, Tete, Brittany, and John Paul speak of their futures, what they plan to be when they grow up. They’ve also learned that living with a transplant is a life-long process. Medications must be given that trick the immune system so it will not attack the transplanted organ. Other medications must be given to prevent side effects of the anti-rejection medications, such as infection. Frequent visits to and contact with the transplant team are essential.
Every child is unique and every transplant is different. Results continually improve as physicians and scientists learn more about how the body deals with transplanted organs and search for ways to improve transplantation. Reflecting on the busy week, Dr. Victor Morell, chief of cardiothoracic surgery, said he’d do it again without question. “What can I tell you? Honestly, it’s what we do.”
Illustration: Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (06/11/07)
Children’s Hospital Heart Transplantation