Boy lives for 120 days with 'heart' outside his body

A baby boy who survived a record 120 days connected to an artificial heart outside his body has come home from hospital.

Boy lives for 120 days with 'heart' outside his body

A baby boy who survived a record 120 days connected to an artificial heart outside his body has come home from hospital.

In March, doctors told eight-month-old Jack Vellam's parents he was so ill from an inflammation of the heart muscle that there was nothing more they could do for him.

Reluctantly, the couple agreed to turn off their son's life-support machine.

They said their goodbyes.

But five hours later, Danielle Hastings, 18, and Terry Vellam, 21, changed their minds – and decided to wait and see if Jack could be given a heart transplant.

As a temporary measure, he was connected to a device known as a Berlin Heart.

He stayed attached to it for 120 days – and against all the odds his failing heart made an astonishing recovery.

The longest a child had previously been connected to the machine in Britain was thought to be 30 days.

A delighted Miss Hastings cuddled Jack, now a year old, as they left Newcastle upon Tyne's Freeman Hospital to return to their home in Pitsford, Northamptonshire.

The youngster had been suffering from myocarditis, or swelling of the heart.

Two-thirds of children with the condition do not survive and a heart transplant is often needed.

But in Jack's case, his time connected to the Berlin Heart allowed his own heart to regain its strength. 

The Berlin Heart replicates the normal functions of the heart, using pumps to circulate the blood.

Miss Hastings yesterday described the day she had to decide her baby's fate after doctors told her he would die.

She said: "It was such a shock. I was crying. Just days ago I'd thought I had a perfectly healthy baby who maybe had a tummy bug.

"But seeing him there suffering broke my heart.

"I knew my son was dying - there would be no more Jack.

"Seeing him in that bed was too much for us. We didn't want him to suffer any more so we said they could turn it off."

But she said that conversations with other parents of sick children on the ward - and her own mother's experience of losing a child to cot death - convinced her to change her mind.

She added: "I had to think whether I'd look back on it and regret not giving Jack every chance possible."

The final stage of Jack's treatment was a dangerous operation to remove the artificial heart.

"But after coming through that, he is now back home and has even eaten his first solid food.

Miss Hastings said: "The doctors were amazed. They said he was very lucky."

• Made in Germany as its name suggests, the Berlin Heart works by helping the right ventricle of the heart to pump blood to the lungs and the left ventricle to pump blood to the body.

The bulk of the device is outside the body and only the tubes are implanted by being inserted under the ribcage.

The system is operated by a laptop computer and the pumps are driven by compressed air.

Costing around £40,000, it is designed as a bridge to keep the patient alive by doing the heart's job for it while the heart recovers or until a transplant can be carried out.

First manufactured in 1992, the device comes in various sizes and can be used for a tiny baby or an adult.

It has been used for less than two years in the UK to keep children alive while awaiting a transplant.

The longest a child has ever survived while linked up to the artificial heart is 420 days compared to the adult world record of 1200 days.

In Britain the only two hospitals which have so far used the device are Great Ormond Street in London and Newcastle's Freeman Hospital.

Around the world, more than 150 children and 1200 adults suffering from a variety of heart diseases have been fitted with the artificial organ

Daily Mail

Last Mod: 25 Ağustos 2007, 01:39
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