Heart transplant

Resilient teen receives 500th heart transplant from Stanford Children’s Health

Stanford Children’s Health Takes Rare Milestone in Pediatric Heart Transplant

Tiffany Collins would never have guessed that her healthy and active 14-year-old daughter, Mackenzie, would be the 500th heart transplant patient at Stanford Children’s Health.

“I was in total shock. We have no history of heart disease in our family, ”says Tiffany. “One minute, I had a perfectly healthy child, and the next, I’m talking to doctors about a heart transplant. “

In February 2021, Mackenzie, who enjoys biking, swimming and playing sports, fell seriously ill. First of all, she lost her appetite and her energy. Then she started to vomit and had difficulty breathing. The pediatrician in her hometown suspected she had a virus and tested her for COVID-19, but he came back negative. Yet Mackenzie has not improved. It got worse.

“Her feet started to swell and soon after, the swelling spread to her legs and abdomen. We rushed her to the emergency department at our local hospital, ”Tiffany says. “Within an hour, doctors diagnosed her with congestive heart failure, and within an hour, she was in an ambulance on its way to Stanford Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. “

Mackenzie was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy through cardiologists to Betty Irene Moore Children’s Heart Center at Stanford Children’s Health, a progressive form of heart disease that causes the heart muscle to enlarge and stretch, or dilate. When this happens, the heart weakens and is unable to pump enough blood to the lungs and body. Dilated cardiomyopathy is caused by viral infections, genes, or toxins. In the case of Mackenzie, genetic test at Stanford Children’s Health confirmed that she had a mutated heart muscle gene.

“While it seems odd that Mackenzie and his family are unaware of his heart failure, it is quite common among teenagers with dilation. cardiomyopathy, “said David Rosenthal, MD, director of the Pediatric Advanced Cardiac Therapy (PACT) Program at Stanford Children’s Health. “Mackenzie’s heart failure was already severe, so she was admitted to our PACTE program. “

Several cardiac experts collaborating for Mackenzie

Stanford Children’s Health’s PACT program is innovative among leading pediatric heart centers in that it combines the care of heart failure and heart transplant patients under one roof. When heart failure and heart transplant doctors work together and collaborate closely with cardiothoracic surgeons and cardiovascular intensive care specialists, patients do better because they are receiving the right care, in the right place, at the right time.

the The Pediatric Transplantation Center team, the The PACT program team, and the largest Betty Irene Moore Children’s Heart Center Team, as well as support teams like Social services, physiotherapists and Child life, encompassed Mackenzie’s health as a whole. “It wasn’t just, ‘Oh, your kid has a heart problem, let’s focus on that.’ That was all. All aspects of their health and well-being. It’s not something that I think you find in a lot of places, and it really makes a difference, ”says Tiffany.

the PACT program exists within the hospital management Betty Irene Moore Children’s Heart Center, which is known to accommodate the most difficult and complex heart cases across the country and achieve excellent results, including one-year survival rates of over 94% for heart transplantation. The Moore Children’s Heart Center is one of the few pediatric heart centers in the country to have passed the impressive 500 heart transplant milestone.

“We are one of the largest programs, both in pediatric heart transplantation and ventricular assistive devices (VAD), in the country,” said Elizabeth Profita, MD, pediatric cardiologist. “Because we treat such complex cases on a regular basis and take on such a large number of patients, what is considered rare in other children’s hospitals is more common here. “

At first, doctors tried intravenous drugs to strengthen Mackenzie’s heart and control the rhythm problems. Yet her heart continued to weaken and she was placed on the heart transplant list, setting her on the path to becoming the hospital’s 500th heart transplant recipient.

“I was very surprised to learn that I was the 500th heart transplant at Stanford Children’s Health. I’m happy and very proud that it’s me, ”says Mackenzie.

In order for her to feel strong with the transplant, she needed an artificial heart pump known as a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) to support her failing heart while she waited for the transplant. Michael Ma, MD, cardiovascular surgeon, performed open heart surgery to place a next-generation device called the HeartMate 3 â„¢.

Ventricular assist devices (VADs) are a bridge to transplantation, allowing blood to flow and encouraging the body to recover. The Moore Children’s Heart Center PACT program is a leader in VAD volumes and positive results, having placed over 200 to date, even in babies as young as 15 days old.

“At Moore Children’s Heart Center, we are all united by the same mission: to provide the best possible care for every patient. Every day we wake up and think about how we can work together to help children and their families, ”says Dr Ma.

Finding the perfect donor heart

With her new heart pump, Mackenzie was able to leave the hospital and go home to wait for her transplant. She felt good, despite limitations such as having to give up her favorite activity: swimming. Fortunately, she didn’t have to wait long, as a matched donor heart was located a few months later, in June.

“We got the call that they had perfect hearts in the middle of the night on a Thursday. To imagine your daughter’s heart being withdrawn is terrifying, ”says Tiffany. “But Mackenzie was really excited. If she could have made cartwheels with all of her VAD cords, she would have.

The six-hour open heart surgery performed by Dr. Ma went extremely well. Within one day, Mackenzie was out of bed and walking the hallways with a physiotherapist.

“When we got to the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford for the transplant surgery, we were told she was the third that week, and I thought it was amazing, so when I Heard it was the 500th heart transplant, I was even more amazed, “says Tiffany.” That it was such a success that the 500th heart transplant is so wonderful!

Within 14 days, Mackenzie was released from the hospital and was able to join her family at Stanford Ronald McDonald House to complete his recovery. The VAD had done her job to make her strong before the transplant, so she was strong on the way out and her resilient mind did the rest.

“With heart failure, there are always ups and downs, but every time Mackenzie had a setback she reset, rolled with it, and was finally able to bounce back and re-commit to going. before, ”says Dr Rosenthal.

“Today you would never know that this child had two open heart surgeries in six months. She’s back to her sweetheart to swim, hike and take daily walks, ”Tiffany says. “His energy level is about 100%.”

Tiffany gives three words to describe the care she received at Stanford Children’s Health, starting with compassionate. The next word is informative, because she was kept informed of every decision.

“For the last word I must say intelligent. I was blown away by the quality of care we received and the way they answered all of our questions, ”adds Tiffany. “I had complete confidence in their care. “

A legacy of heart transplants

Stanford Children’s Health performed the first successful pediatric heart transplant over 35 years ago. From that early triumph, the hospital has built a legacy as one of the largest heart transplant programs in the United States, ranking first for the highest pediatric heart transplant volumes in West. Coupled with the Pediatric transplant center, which is # 3 nationally in organ transplant volumes, this team of top pediatric heart specialists performs approximately 25 heart transplants each year. The more transplants a hospital undertakes, the more expert physicians and very complex cases it attracts, ultimately leading to unparalleled care and consistently exceptional results. Our cardiologists act boldly, never backing down from the most complex heart failure patients, even those who have been turned away from other centers, because they want every child to have their best chance to survive and thrive.

“In celebrating the 500th Pediatric Heart Transplant, we are celebrating Mackenzie and the hundreds of children whose lives have been improved through heart transplantation and organ donation,” said Dr. Profita.

While Mackenzie feels honored to be part of the hoopla to celebrate the 500th, she’s more excited to just be a teenager and do what she loves, like reveling in her freshman year of high school, getting back in the water. to swim, and ride a bike to meet friends.

Mackenzie's graduation

“I’m so grateful to everyone at Stanford for taking such good care of me. There are a lot of things that I look forward to in my life, and I’m so happy that I can do whatever I want, ”Mackenzie says.