Hearts were raised back to life and they continued to beat outside the bodies of their donors before being implanted in the bodies of children – to save their lives.
Staff at Great Ormond Street Hospital (Gosh) and Royal Papworth Hospital (RPH) collaborated in the field of “game exchange technology” – known as donation after circulatory death (DCD).
Anna collapsed during exercise classes
Donated hearts have historically come from people who are brain dead but whose hearts are still throbbing, limiting the number of possible transplants.
DCD not only allows more hearts to be used, but also transports them farther and gives the surgeon and nurses more time.
This revolutionary technology was first introduced in Europe at RPH in 2015, but until recently it has only been possible for adults.
The collaboration between Cambridge RPH – whose team restores the heart – and Goshi, whose team implants the organ, and NHS Blood & Transplant represent the first use of DCD technology in child transplants across the country. .
Jacob Simmonds, a consultant cardiologist and transplant physician at Goshi, praised the importance of the program.
Caitlin Goodsell, another patient who received a new heart
He said: “In early 2020, we had more children on the Goshi transplant list than I had ever seen working in a hospital in 16 years.
“Every day a child waits, there is a greater chance that he or she will get sick too much for a transplant or worse.
“Although medical advances have progressed, for some children with heart failure, organ donation is indeed their only hope.”
The DCD cardiac program has opened up more donation opportunities, doubling the number of transplants performed at Goshi in eligible patients weighing more than 20kg, he said.
The first patient to receive a DCD heart through a partnership was 15-year-old Anna Hadley.
Anna was diagnosed with restrictive cardiomyopathy when she collapsed two months earlier during the PE course.
His father, Andrew, said: “After weighing the risks and potential benefits of a DCD heart transplant with a more conventional organ transplant, we found that there was only one choice and we are glad we have done it.
“Five days after the transfer, Anna walked up and down the hallways, chatted and raised the staff’s five hands. It was awesome. ”