SAN DIEGO — A baby from National City is making San Diego County history by becoming the youngest patient to receive a heart transplant.
At just 6 months old, Santiago Arenas already bears the scars of a tough life.
“He was in the machine since birth,” Naara Arenas, Santiago’s mother, told FOX 5 in an exclusive interview.
Santi was born with dilated cardio-myopathy.
“When Santiago was first born he was very, very sick,” said Dr. Singh, pediatric transplant cardiologist.
Singh is the Medical Director of the pediatric heart failure and transplantation program at Rady Children’s Hospital.
When he told Santi’s parents about his condition, it was particularly hard news for Naara and her husband Daniel.
“At first, I was completely in denial. I didn’t want to know anything about it, I have to go through this again?” said Naara.
The couple had lost their first child to the same disease, but Naara was told Santiago would have a second chance.
“Right after he was born Dr. Rakesh came in and told us we have this program in heart transplant cardiology and that they we could help my son,” said Naara.
The problem was finding a heart.
“Infants waiting for hearts, wait the longest,” said Singh.
The wait wasn’t long at all. A match was found within months, Naara told FOX 5. It was the last thing she expected.
“We got that call in the middle of the night,” said Arenas. “To have it so quickly was emotional for us. We cried.”
“In this case, a donor family made the sacrifice to donate their child’s heart,” said Singh.
Naara thought it was too good to be true.
“Was this the heart, was this the heart? It was very nerve-wracking,” said Naara.
The heart wasn’t just right in size, but the right blood type too. Now, the heart had to be placed into Santiago, a difficult procedure on a 3-month-old.
“If you can imagine the infant heart is about the size of a plum, so surgeons are working with a very, very small heart,” said Singh.
The surgery was a success and the heart now beats strong, giving Santi and his family new life.
“The people that donated, they have a piece of my heart,” said Naara through tears. “Hopefully in the future she will be willing to meeting this beautiful baby that she made it possible for him to live.”
Singh said with regular check-ups, Santiago would be just fine.
“He’s got his whole life ahead of him.”