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Health Beat: HeartWare: Saving kids waiting for transplants

By Melanie Falcon, Anchor / Reporter, @Melanie_Falcon, MFalcon@wfmz.com
Published On: Apr 04 2014 04:48:28 PM CDT

Heartware Saving Kids

ST. LOUIS -

When children experience heart failure, they often need a transplant to replace their defected organ, but waiting can take time.

Now, there's a new device that helps the heart do its job without stopping a kid from being a kid.

It doesn't look like much, but a day out is big for 11-year-old Jacque Fair.

Last summer, Jacque and her mom found out she had heart failure and needed a transplant.

"It was a surprise," Jacque said.

"I had to step out of the room to be honest with you. It was a little much to take," Katrina Fair, Jacque's mom, said.

While she waits for a transplant, Jacque wears the HeartWare device.

"They used to be bigger, bulkier, so only adults could receive them," said Mary Mehegan, VAD coordinator, St. Louis Children's Hospital.

The pump is implanted in the heart and attaches to a battery pack outside the body. It takes blood out of the left ventricle and pumps it into the aorta, helping the heart function when it's too weak to do so on its own.

The device is small enough to be used in kids and it is portable, so patients don’t have to stay in the hospital.

"It's a beautiful thing to let a child go home while they're still in heart failure,” Mehegan said.

Jacque said the device has given her freedom.

"If I didn't have this, I'd probably be in the hospital, not allowed to do anything and taped up to the wall," Jacque said.

She's looking forward to her transplant, but said she's happy she can still be a kid while she waits.

Patients have to be at least 65 pounds to receive the device. The HeartWare is a left ventricular assist device, commonly called an LVAD.

It's been used in adults for years, but only recently in children. In fact, fewer than 10 children's hospitals in the nation have used these devices.

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