San Diego – Feb. 11, 2015 – In the second pediatric heart transplant in Rady Children’s history, a team of surgeons successfully implanted a heart in 17-month-old Jahaziel Faualo from Oahu, Hawaii on Jan. 31, 2015. The surgery occurred just two weeks after the Hospital’s first-ever heart transplant on Jan. 14, in which 11-year-old San Diego resident Eric Montano, who suffered from a condition called restrictive cardiomyopathy, received a new heart. Both operations involved transporting the donor heart to Rady Children’s from another state and then, moments after the new heart arrived, removing the patient’s failing heart and replacing it with a healthy donor heart. Jahaziel suffered from a condition called dilated cardiomyopathy, a disease in which the heart becomes weakened and enlarged and cannot pump blood efficiently.
Rady Children’s cardiac transplant surgeon and surgical director Dr. Eric Devaney led the transplant surgery. He traveled by plane to the donor hospital to retrieve the heart, carefully transported it back to Rady Children’s, and then immediately joined cardiac transplant surgeon Dr. John Lamberti in the operating room. The surgeons then removed Jahaziel’s failing heart and sutured the new donor heart into place.
“I’ve performed many heart transplants over the years, but it’s still a miraculous thing,” said Dr. Devaney. “When you first provide blood flow to the new heart, and you see it start to beat, it’s incredible.”
Transplant cardiologist and medical director Dr. Rakesh Singh monitored Jahaziel before the surgery and will be responsible for overseeing her post-operative care.
“It takes a village to perform heart transplantation. There are at least 50 people behind the scenes that help make this possible,” said Dr. Singh. “It’s also important to think about the donor family and the sacrifice they had to make during a very difficult moment. It’s because of their sacrifice that this actually occurred.”
“When we got the call, it was scary and exciting at the same time,” said Jahaziel’s father, Mac Faualo. “Eventually we knew we knew she would get a new heart; we just didn’t expect it to be this soon.”
“When we got the call at about 12:30 in the morning, I was asleep – but soon I was wide awake and crying tears of joy. I couldn’t believe it was happening,” said Jahaziel’s mother, Jamey Sua. “We were so excited we couldn’t sleep the rest of the night.”
Recovering from a heart transplant typically requires a hospital stay of two weeks. Although heart transplant patients must remain on various medications for the rest of their lives, most are able lead normal lives, return to school full time and participate in activities they were unable to do before transplantation.
Visit http://rady.isebox.net/newheart to download broadcast quality video and photos of the patient and family and interviews with the parents and Dr. Rakesh Singh.
Note: Surgery video was recorded during the first heart transplant.