Dell Children’s celebrates 6-month-old’s heart transplant

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Dell Children’s Medical Center and UT Health Austin, the clinical practice of Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin, recently celebrated as 6-month-old Zaria Grace Jackson headed home after a donor heart transplant at Dell Children’s. Zaria received her heart transplant on March 25.

Zaria left Dell Children’s to cheers and a bubble parade from the staff after more than three months at the hospital.

 

Zaria first arrived at Dell Children’s emergency department on Jan. 8, presenting symptoms and signs of heart failure, and was quickly admitted to the hospital’s pediatric cardiac care unit. Her condition rapidly deteriorated, and the cardiac team determined Zaria’s best chance for survival was a heart transplant. The cause of her heart failure is uncertain.

On Jan. 11, a Berlin Heart ventricular assist device was implanted in Zaria while waiting for a donor heart. The device functioned in place of her own heart when it became too weak to pump sufficient amounts of blood to the lungs or the rest of her body. The device supports patients in heart failure and offers a bridge to life for a child awaiting a heart transplant.

“There’s a lot of stories in this heart transplant,” Charles Fraser Jr., MD, head of the Texas Center for Pediatric and Congenital Heart Disease, told the Austin American-Statesman. He said it was the first Berlin Heart transplant, the first infant transplant, and the first ABO incompatible transplant at the hospital. An ABO incompatible transplant occurs when the donor’s blood type doesn’t match the recipient’s – something that’s possible in infancy because their immune systems are not fully developed. Dr. Fraser said the situation makes the surgery more complicated.

The Texas Center for Pediatric and Congenital Heart Disease at Dell Children’s Medical Center began its heart transplant program in July 2020. Zaria’s was the third heart transplant at Dell Children’s.

“We’re really progressing rapidly here,”  Ziyad Binsalamah, MD, surgical director of heart transplantation and mechanical circulatory support at Dell Children’s, told the American-Statesman. “We’ve already exceeded our expectations for the first year.”