New Year, New Life for Girl with New Heart

Doctors, nurses, and staff at Children's National have grown to love a young patient who waited for more than a year for a new heart. Teresa, age 2, had a heart that was structurally normal, but began failing in early 2014. Doctors kept her alive with a Berlin heart, a mechanical organ that sat atop her belly, quietly whirling and squeezing to pump blood through her system. She was also attached to a large console that needed to be wheeled with her wherever she went. As she waited for a heart to become available for a transplant, she risked complications like stroke and pump failure. But she was an inspiration to everyone who met her. She would walk the hallways, smiling and waving to guests, sometimes offering to share her baby doll. She brought joy to the entire unit. But as days turned to weeks, and weeks to months, and no donor was found, the staff worried about how long she had left to live. Everything changed over the December holidays, when a heart finally became available, and our cardiac intensive care team performed the urgent and complicated operation. Early Christmas morning, multiple teams rallied from around the region and within the hospital to come to the girl's aid. It takes multiple complex teams to orchestrate a transplant. Some travel long distances to retrieve the heart, while others prepare the patient. In this case there were additional requirements for experts because she was on a pump. Clinicians left their families and rushed to the hospital to make a miracle happen. The operation was successful! The team members were able to be part of the best holiday gift ever -- the gift of life. The little girl spent a peaceful night in the cardiac intensive care unit, sleeping, with her new heart working just fine. Today, she is doing well, off the ventilator and machines, and asking for apple juice. This happy ending would not have been possible without the bravery and persistence of the little girl and her family, the expertise and devotion of our clinical and administrative teams, the courage of the donor family to give the gift of life, and generous donors who help Children's National provide the highest level of care.

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