lived for 48 days with heart assist device while waiting for transplant
A 15 year old Taft High School student is alive today, thanks to the implantation of an artificial heart device which kept her enlarged heart pumping for 48 days while an organ donor could be found, 1200 WOAI's Joshua Cook reports.
The groundbreaking operation was the result of a collaboration between UT Medicine San Antonio, Methodist San Antonio Heart Hospital, and the UT Health Science Center.
Dr. Jay Pal says Amber suffered from a rare condition which could have killed her before the young donor heart became available, were it not for the HeartMateII left-ventricular assist device.
"Patients like Amber who get very sick very quickly, typically don't have the time to wait for a transplant," Pal told 1200 WOAI news.
Pal performed the operation alongside Dr. John Calhoon, who is one of the world's leading pediatric heart surgeons.
Amber is one of the youngest patients in the world to be 'bridged to transplant' in this manner.
Amber says her near death experience has prompted her to take her message to other teenagers.
"I'm basically just going to speak to kids, telling them that, no matter what has happened to you, it always gets better," she told Joshua.
Dr. Pal says Amber was hospitalized earlier this year in preparation for a heart transplant, but after he condition rapidly deteriorated, doctors decided to take the major step of using the bridge dev ice, which is implanted in the abdomen, and connected by a cable to an external monitor and power pack.
"Amber was in the highest risk category because of how ill she was," Dr. Pal said.
Amber went to the emergency room in January after she couldn't hold down any food, and was diagnosed with non-ischemic cardiomyopathy. Doctors think the condition is related to her asthma.
Doctors were worried that the heart assist device would not work in someone so young, a patient whose heart was not yet fully developed. But Dr. Pal said steps had to be taken to keep her alive.
"There aren't very many people this age who have had this pump," he said. "We were concerned about children being able to manage these things, especially the emotional component of having a battery connected to the body. She is definitely one of the youngest in the world to have used this pump."
Amber is looking forward now to returning to Taft in August, and playing her flute in the marching band. And she will have an amazing story to tell her friends.
"It was pretty hard because I could feel the wire coming out of my stomach, and that was irritating, and I was afraid the device would run low on batteries."
Like any teenager, Amber is responding to her challenge by establishing a Facebook page to help other teenager make it through very trying medical emergencies.