DURHAM, NC – A new heart beats in a Burlington girl’s chest after a one-of-a-kind surgery at Duke Children’s Hospital.
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14-year-old Burlington girl has a new heart thanks to new organ preservation technology
Duke’s doctors operated on Jaynzra “Nae” Rice
Special compassionate use granted by the FDA has enabled
The operation lasted eight hours
Nae is recovering while continuing his rehabilitation at the hospital
On August 31, Jaynzra “Nae” Rice, 14, became the first pediatric patient in America to successfully receive a heart using a new method without cold storage.
While DCD, the donation after circulatory death, has been used for other organs before, a heart has never been resuscitated after it stopped beating to be transplanted into a child. Coincidentally, the same advanced cardiac procedure was performed first in an adult on December 1, 2019 at Duke University Hospital.
According to the operations team, organ preservation technology developed by a company called Transmedicine keeps the heart alive and warm so that it is ready for a transplant on the day of the procedure.
Dr Nick Andersen is one of the surgeons who operated on Nae for eight hours.
Andersen said: “I was able to come out very happy and I was able to tell her mother that I was very optimistic and that I thought she would be in good shape to move forward.”
Nae’s mother, Brandaline Rice, says it was some of the best news she’s ever heard in her life.
“I felt happy. I felt relieved and I always come back to being blessed. God really took care of my child during this whole process,” Rice said.
It’s a process that began when Nae was admitted to Duke Children’s on February 26 with critical heart failure and would begin a three-month stay.
Rice said, “It was a scary time because we didn’t know. She was very ill. There were weeks when we didn’t think she would get there.
What was even scarier for the mother was that Nae couldn’t tell you how she was feeling. The young girl lives with a gene deletion syndrome and cannot express her pain verbally.
“You have to kind of know your child and look for signs when she is not feeling well,” Rice said.
Meanwhile, her daughter received an LVAD, a left ventricular assist device implanted by Andersen and his team, to help the heart efficiently pump blood to the rest of the body.
Andersen said, “We were able to adapt the device to have a child keep it alive. She was able to go home with the heart pump on and did very well, but that’s not a long-term solution. It’s a bridge to a heart transplant.
Rice says Nae was not released until June 3. Shortly after her release, Rice says their family found the light of day. Andersen and members of his team approached Rice about a technology used in an adult heart transplant clinical trial. Duke’s doctors have received special compassionate use clearance from the FDA to use the technology.
Her mother says that when the family learned that Nae was eligible for this special transplant, she took it as a sign from God.
“She has had her second chance at life,” Rice said.
This surgery could also set a precedent for how quickly a child can become the recipient of a new heart in the future.
“Wait times for heart transplants are expected to be reduced as this technology becomes more and more common,” says the surgeon.
The doctor says many children waiting for a heart often die before a transplant takes place. He says the LVAD was also removed to put the new heart in his body.
“My top priority was to deliver Nae to her mother in good condition, and I was happy to be able to do so. Personally, what wakes me up every morning is a very strong sense of duty and a very strong sense of trying to help other people’s children, ”said the doctor.
Nae’s mother says her daughter is recovering well in the hospital and is in daily therapy as she adjusts to her new heart.
Brandaline Rice said: “It makes me feel honored to be her mother and to be able to be here with her every day.”
There is no current timetable for the duration of the rehabilitation.