New technology cut Freya Heddington’s wait time for a new heart from two years to two months. That was incredible news for the 14-year-old. “I am ecstatic that I got such an amazing gift,” she says. The British teenager underwent a successful life-saving heart transplant with a new heart—remarkably, one that was revived outside of her body.
Doctors used a “heart in a box” device to supply oxygen, blood, and nutrients to a donor heart. This technology is saving lives by keeping organs alive outside of a human body. The device extends the time a heart remains transplantable, making it possible for hearts to come from a much wider range of donors around the globe.
Previously, hearts used in transplants came from patients who have no brain activity but whose hearts are still beating. The pioneering technology can take a heart that has stopped beating, get it beating again, and safely transplant it into a recipient. The device was used to restart Freya’s new heart and make sure it was healthy enough for her body––before it was transplanted.
“The device is vital,” says Stephen Large, a surgeon at the Royal Papworth Hospital in the United Kingdom. “The heart gets an absolutely essential infusion of blood to restore its energy.” Proverbs 4:23 addresses the health of our spiritual hearts. “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” A close walk with the Lord infuses a believer’s heart with life.
The procedure premiered at a hospital in Cambridge in 2015. But for the first few years, it was available only for adults needing a heart transplant. Now the Royal Papworth Hospital has teamed up with Great Ormond Street Hospital to benefit children too.
Marius Bergman is a transplant surgeon. He says that the breakthrough technology is helping surgeons double the previous number of heart transplants. It is reducing wait time too, thus reducing mortality in the waiting list.
Dr. Abbas Ardehali is the surgical director of the heart and lung transplantation program at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. He says, “There are not enough donor hearts to help all the patients who are waiting. If we can find ways to improve upon our limited supply of hearts, then more lives will be saved.”
Only six British children have received a new heart with this procedure so far. Four other children have gone through similar heart transplants worldwide.