Newswise — San Diego – Jan. 22, 2015 – In an historic first for Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego, a team of surgeons successfully implanted a heart in 11-year-old Eric Montaño from San Diego. The carefully timed operation involved transporting the donor heart to Rady Children’s from another state and then, moments after the new heart arrived, removing Eric’s failing heart and replacing it with the healthy donor heart. The operation took six hours from start to finish. “This incredible milestone is the culmination of years of planning and preparation - and the courageous act of a family who chose to donate life,” said Rady Children’s President Dr. Donald Kearns. “The ability to perform heart transplants here in San Diego now allows us to provide comprehensive care for all children with any form of heart disease. Families will no longer have to relocate to other cities for a heart transplant and can stay close to home and loved ones.”
Eric suffered from a condition called restrictive cardiomyopathy, a disease in which the heart walls become stiff and limit the heart from filling with blood properly. As the disease progressed, Eric became limited in what he could do including participating in sports and playing with his friends. His only chance for a long, healthy life was a heart transplant. Eric has a twin brother Raul who suffers from the identical condition. He is currently awaiting heart transplantation at Rady Children’s.
Rady Children’s cardiac transplant surgeon and surgical director Dr. Eric Devaney led the transplant surgery. He traveled by plane to the donor hospital to retrieve the heart, carefully transported it back to Rady Children’s, and then immediately joined cardiac transplant surgeon Dr. Daniel DiBardino in the operating room. The surgeons then removed Eric’s failing heart and sutured the new donor heart into place.
“Performing a heart transplant truly takes a team effort,” said Dr. Devaney. “In addition to the cardiologists and surgeons involved, the transplant team is comprised of a variety of healthcare professionals including a transplant nurse, a pathologist, a pharmacist, physical and occupational therapists, social workers, dietitians, and child life specialists.”
Transplant cardiologist and medical director Dr. Rakesh Singh monitored Eric before the surgery and will be responsible for overseeing his post-operative care. “To be able to tell families great news like this – that their child will get a new heart -- is what I love best,” said Dr. Singh. “It provides such a sense of relief and hope.” “We’ve been waiting for this day for a long time,” said Eric’s mother, Alma Mundo. “It’s been tough, but all of the support from the cardiac team at Rady Children’s has made it easier for us. We’re so proud and excited, and we know that Eric is in good hands.”
Recovering from a heart transplant typically requires a hospital stay of two weeks. Although heart transplant patients must remain on various medications for the rest of their lives, most are able lead normal lives, return to school full time and participate in activities they were unable to do before transplantation. For Eric, that means playing soccer with his friends again.
Click here to download broadcast quality video of the surgery