Heart transplant recipient Oliver Hope Crawford is resting comfortably in an Arizona hospital after being the youngest person ever to receive a heart transplant at six-days old. More than seven weeks premature, his heart defect was detected at a 20-week prenatal visit.
After an additional check at 24-weeks to confirm their suspicions, doctors discovered he had dilated cardiomyopathy. A disease of the heart muscle, in dilated cardiomyopathy the left ventricle stretches until it cannot pump blood. One-third of children with this disease need no intervention, experiencing improvement on their own. Another third eventually die from the heart’s inability to effectively pump blood. The final third require a heart transplant. According to pediatric cardiologist Dr. Christopher Lindblade, Baby Oliver’s left ventricle was extremely large for his gestational age. Although there was a chance he would not need any intervention Dr. Lindblade doubted he would make it to delivery. When tested again at 28-weeks, Oliver’s left ventricle had grown to seven times the size of a normal one.
Oliver’s mother, Caylyn Otto was scheduled to be induced at 36 weeks to see if the neonate could handle a transplant. She went into labor at 33 weeks. At that time Otto, and Oliver’s father Christopher Crawford, expected to deliver a stillborn child. Fearing the worst, they had removed all of the toys and diapers in his nursery for his homecoming and began planning his funeral. Thankfully, once delivered, little Oliver “came out fighting.” Although instead of crying out loud, he uttered a tiny “peep”, being so premature.
He was quickly transferred to another hospital where he was placed at the top of the heart transplant list. After only a two-day wait, Oliver underwent the 10-hour heart surgery at six-days old that would transform his and his family’s life. His body did not reject the new heart and his family planned a baby shower for their miraculous son. Although they do not know when he will be coming home, they intend to be ready. Oliver’s family has set up a donation page to help pay for his surgeries. The family, in conjunction with the Children’s Organ Transplant Association, hope to cover the $60,000 price tag of the surgery through donations.
Baby Oliver is blessed that he fit the standards for his heart transplant at six days old. A recent study in the American Journal of Transplantation remarked that a large number of hearts are going unused and even end up going to waste. This is in the face of a growing list of people like little Oliver that need the organ. The low number of transplantation is due to higher standards at some transplant centers. Additionally, new technologies make it possible for some patients to rely on machinery for longer periods of time. Some people would rather rely on a machine than wait for a heart transplant. Some reasons that a heart would be rejected include it being too small or that it comes from an older person. Study doctor Kiran Kush suggests that a set of scientifically based standards be established for accepting and rejecting hearts. Currently, less than 10 percent of the 20,000 people who needed heart transplants receive them.
By Danielle Branch
Photo by Amelle Lelarge – License
Photo by Mallix – License