17-month-old girl gets new heart

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SAN DIEGO — Less than three weeks after surgeons performed the first pediatric heart transplant at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, a second procedure was conducted, the hospital announced Wednesday.

A new heart was provided to 17-month-old Jahaziel Faualo, a resident of Hawaii, on Jan. 31, according to Rady Children’s. The toddler suffered from dilated cardiomyopathy, a disease in which the heart becomes weakened and enlarged, and cannot pump blood efficiently.

“When we got the call, it was scary and exciting at the same time,” said her father, Mac Faualo. “Eventually we knew we knew she would get a new heart — we just didn’t expect it to be this soon.”

Hospital officials said the lead surgeon, Dr. Eric Devaney, traveled out of state to retrieve the donor’s heart, brought it back to San Diego, and helped Dr. John Lamberti place it in Jahaziel.

“I’ve performed many heart transplants over the years, but it’s still a miraculous thing,” Devaney said. “When you first provide blood flow to the new heart, and you see it start to beat, it’s incredible.”

Seventeen days earlier, the first heart transplant was performed on 11- year-old San Diegan Eric Montano, who has since gone home and is expected to resume normal activities in a few months.

Transplant cardiologist and medical director Dr. Rakesh Singh monitored Jahaziel before the surgery and will be responsible for overseeing her post- operative care. He also cared for Eric.

“There are at least 50 people behind the scenes that help make this possible,” Singh said. “It’s also important to think about the donor family and the sacrifice they had to make during a very difficult moment. It’s because of their sacrifice that this actually occurred.”

Recovering from a heart transplant typically requires a hospital stay of two weeks, according to Rady Children’s.

Hospital officials said heart transplant patients must remain on various medications for the rest of their lives, but most are able lead normal lives, return to school full-time and participate in activities they were unable to do before transplantation.

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