With an Artificial Heart Pump Across the Atlantic
For the first time, a toddler from the United States connected to an artificial heart pump has been flown to Germany for surgery to retrieve the device. The procedure was successful and now Chloé and her parents are able to return home.
In July this year two-year-old Chloé from Salt Lake City in the US has to be connected to an artificial circulation pump, the „Berlin Heart Excor Pediatric“, due to acutely life-threatening heart muscle inflammation.
She is put on the waiting list for a heart transplant.
Gradually, though, there are many indications that her own heart could have recovered through the mechanical relief. But in the US, there is hardly any experience there with the operational removal of the system in order to avoid the risks of a transplant.
Chloé’s parents, Ryan and Treasure Caldwell, research on the internet and find out that at the German Heart Center Berlin (DHZB) standard procedures for assessing the possibility of artificial heart pump removal due to recovery and for the optimal conduct of the procedure were developed more than 10 years ago.
Since 1990, more than 130 artificial hearts of various types have been explanted at the DHZB – among the patients, 27 children with the „Berlin Heart Excor Pediatric,“ the device that has also saved Chloé’s life.
Ryan and Treasure Caldwell submit Chloé’s documents to the DHZB for consideration and the Berlin experts rate the chances of success of surgical removal of the artificial heart as high.
Treasure and Ryan Caldwell finally achieve that their daughter is admitted to the DHZB and Chloé is flown to Berlin on November 13, by ambulance jet and with a specially trained medical crew.
At the DHZB’s Department of Congenital Heart Disease – Pediatric Cardiology, under the direction of Prof. Dr. med. Felix Berger, meticulous tests are conducted.
Finally, the pediatric cardiologists give the go-ahead. In the early morning of November 26, Prof. Joachim Photiadis, Director of the DHZB Department of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery, removes the artificial circulatory pump in a 6-hour operation from Chloé’s heart.
After only two days, Chloé can leave the intensive care unit and is now about to return home. She will probably be able to spend not only Christmas at home in America – but already her third birthday on December 22nd.
„Of course, complications can be never completely excluded and Chloé’s condition should continue to be closely monitored,“ says department director Felix Berger, „but our forecast is very optimistic and we are looking forward to discharging Chloé very soon.“
Chloé’s parents wish to make their daughter’s case public in order to draw more attention in the US to the fact that in some – albeit few – cases, there is an alternative to heart transplantation for children on the artificial heart.
„We are fully aware that an artificial heart removal without transplant is far from being possible in all cases,“ says Chloé’s mother, Treasure., “but we want to make parents and doctors in the US aware that this alternative exists and that it has been used successfully in Berlin for a long time. We had the financial means to bring our child to Berlin. But all other children in the US should also have the chance of a life without a heart transplant – if, as in Chloé’s case, it is possible.“