DALLAS, March 8, 2018 — The Heart Center at Children’s Health℠, named one of the country’s top pediatric heart programs by U.S. News & World Report, today announced that it has performed 250 heart transplants in children, one of the largest volumes among hospitals nationwide. The milestone coincides with the 30th anniversary of the Heart Center’s pediatric heart transplant program, which began in 1988.
Children’s Health is the sole pediatric heart transplant facility in North Texas and one of only two in the state—attracting patients from across Texas, as well as surrounding states such as New Mexico, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas. Besides hearts, the system is also a major pediatric liver and kidney transplant center, having performed more than 1,300 total organ transplants in children.
“This is a proud moment for the Heart Center as we reflect on the lives transformed through our heart transplant program,” said Robert Jaquiss, M.D., co-director of the Heart Center and director of pediatric cardiothoracic surgery at Children’s Health. Dr. Jaquiss is Professor of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery and Pediatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “Our team of more than 400 cardiologists, surgeons, nurses, managers and support staff in the Heart Center are some of the country’s leading experts in the treatment of the full spectrum of pediatric heart conditions. Our shared commitment to make life better for children drives everything we do.”
From Heart Attack to Heart Transplant
One of these children is Casey Huff, a 15-year-old high school freshman from Fort Worth. As a baby, Casey was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), a rare birth defect in which the left side of the heart is critically undeveloped. Like many HLHS patients, Casey underwent a series of three open-heart surgeries in her first few years of life, and she enjoyed a relatively healthy childhood after that.
Things began to rapidly change in September 2017, however, when she was sitting at home and felt what she describes as “a ton of bricks sitting on your chest.” Casey’s dad rushed her to a local emergency room, where she was diagnosed with a pulled muscle in her sternum. However, when she failed to improve in the following weeks and months, Casey’s doctor referred her to the Heart Center at Children’s Health, where the team discovered that her episode was, in fact, a heart attack.
“When they told us they had answers, I just got chills,” said Casey’s mom, Bethany Huff. “Having answers and a realistic expectation of where we can go from here, and what that looks like, can put you at ease, It’s a hard road, but knowing that you’re in good hands with people on the team who know what to do – that’s where you can develop a good strategy.”
Casey was listed for transplant in late February 2018. On March 1, more than five months after her heart attack, she received her lifesaving heart transplant. The oldest of three siblings, Casey is looking forward to getting back to school and eating her favorite foods after a full recovery.
“Casey’s going to be better off than she’s ever been,” Bethany Huff said. “She doesn’t understand what it’s going to feel like, for example, to not get tired after running. We’re just very excited for her.”
Kicking Off a Tradition of Innovation
When the Heart Center performed its first heart transplant on April 13, 1988, the procedure was still relatively new in children and not widely available. Children’s Health was one of the first to offer pediatric heart transplants in some of the smallest infants for whom this advanced, lifesaving procedure was not previously an option. Today, the Heart Center averages 16 heart transplants per year, including 18 in 2017.
“The innovations in our Heart Center have allowed for what was once considered ‘impossible’ to be ‘possible,’” said David Berry, president of system clinical and scientific operations at Children’s Health. “While no parent would wish for their child to have a heart condition and require specialized care, we are proud of our extraordinary team of experts in the Heart Center who have provided them with countless renewed opportunities for a happy, healthy childhood.”
Transplantation remains the most advanced heart procedure in children; however, medical advancements have introduced many options to keep children healthy enough until the right donor organ becomes available—or even avoid the need for transplant altogether. Among the Heart Center’s innovations are:
- One of only two ventricular assist device programs in Texas, offering custom-fit devices traditionally manufactured for adults, enabling patients to remain healthy as they await a heart transplant or other solution
- One of the nation’s largest pediatric cardiac catheterization programs, reducing the need for open-heart surgery in many patients
- A Fetal Heart Program, the only one in the nation to receive a Gold Seal of Approval from The Joint Commission, that coordinates prenatal testing and high-risk delivery planning to give babies with critical congenital heart conditions the care they need at the right time
- The award-winning Safe at Home Program, an around-the-clock intensive home monitoring program that allows patients with single-ventricle defects to recover at home between surgeries
- One of few programs in the country with a dedicated cardiac MRI, which Heart Center experts use to make more accurate diagnoses and tailor treatments to each patient’s unique anatomy
For more information and pediatric heart transplants and other innovations within the Heart Center at Children’s Health, visit www.childrens.com/heart.