A surgical team has successfully performed a heart transplant in an 11-year-old child at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego, accomplishing the first ever procedure in a pediatric patient in the institution’s history. The hospital believes that being able to perform pediatric heart transplants, which has been planned for years, will improve health care provided to its pediatric heart patients.
11-year-old Eric Montaño, a patient being treated at Rady Children’s Hospital for restrictive cardiomyopathy, was the recipient of the heart in a six-hour surgery that was timed and carefully conducted. The heart from the donor was transported from a different state, and just moments after its arrival, Eric’s failing heart was removed and replaced by the healthy one.
“This incredible milestone is the culmination of years of planning and preparation — and the courageous act of a family who chose to donate life,” explained the president of Rady Children’s, Donald Kearns, PhD., in a press release “The ability to perform heart transplants here in San Diego now allows us to provide comprehensive care for all children with any form of heart disease. Families will no longer have to relocate to other cities for a heart transplant and can stay close to home and loved ones.”
The transplant was led by Rady Children’s cardiac transplant surgeon and surgical director Eric Devaney, who traveled by plane to the hospital where the donor was, was responsible for transporting the organ and went back to San Diego to join cardiac transplant surgeon Daniel DiBardino in the operating room.
“Performing a heart transplant truly takes a team effort,” explained Devaney. “In addition to the cardiologists and surgeons involved, the transplant team is composed of a variety of healthcare professionals including a transplant nurse, a pathologist, a pharmacist, physical and occupational therapists, social workers, dietitians, and child life specialists.”
In addition, the transplant cardiologist and medical director Rakesh Singh was responsible for monitoring the patient before he went to surgery, as well as for supervising his post-operative care and recovery. “To be able to tell families great news like this, that their child will get a new heart, is what I love best,” said Dr. Singh. “It provides such a sense of relief and hope.”
Given the restrictive cardiomyopathy, a condition that stiffens the walls of the heart, limiting it from properly filling with blood, Eric’s only possibility of having a long and healthy life was to receive a heart transplant. With the progression of the disease, the child was already unable to participate in sports or play with his friends. Eric’s twin brother Raul also suffers from the same disease, and is now awaiting for a heart transplant at Rady Children’s Hospital as well.
“We’ve been waiting for this day for a long time,” said Eric’s mother, Alma Mundo. “It’s been tough, but all of the support from the cardiac team at Rady Children’s has made it easier for us. We’re so proud and excited, and we know that Eric is in good hands.”
Eric, as other patients who undergo heart transplants, needs to stay in the hospital for two weeks, and will probably need to continue to take medication for the rest of his life in order to return to a normal life, go back to school and be able to resume some of the activities that were already limited before the procedure. For Eric, he is most looking forward to be able to play soccer again with his friends.