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Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital performs Connecticut’s first pediatric heart transplant

Monday, December 21, 2020

17-year-old boy from Hartford is recipient

New Haven, CT (Dec. 21, 2020) – Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital (YNHCH) has become the first hospital in Connecticut and Rhode Island to perform a successful heart transplant in a pediatric patient.

“We are very proud that Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital, with today’s announcement, has once again shown to be the regional leader in the most advanced, comprehensive care for children,” said Cynthia Sparer, senior vice president, operations at Yale New Haven Hospital and executive director, Children’s Hospital and Women’s Services at YNHH. “Children who have a heart condition and require specialized treatment are able to receive care from our extraordinary team of experts in the Children’s Heart Center, providing both the child and their family with a patient-centered plan for a healthy future. Today’s announcement means these young patients and their families now have the finest care anywhere, close to home, with the latest and most advanced therapies available in the United States.”

The transplant took place on Friday, Oct. 23. The heart recipient is a 17-year old from Hartford, CT named Alex Stephens. The procedure began shortly after 1 pm and ended just before midnight. No information on the donor has been released.

“Alex and I are very grateful to Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital for the amazing gift of life that has been given to us both,” said Gladys Rodriguez, Alex’s mother. “We know that a heart became available to Alex through the generosity and compassion of another family and we will be eternally grateful to them. This loving act of kindness, especially at this time of the year, really says so much about the human spirit of giving. The doctors, nurses and the entire team at YNHCH have been great to our family and we are very appreciative for all they have done.”

“I want to express my thanks and gratitude to my doctors, nurses and everyone at the hospital for all they have done for me,” said Alex Stephens. “I feel great and am getting better every single day. I know how lucky I am that a donor heart became available and I want to say thank you. With Christmas in a few days, I can definitely say this is the best Christmas present I will ever get.”

“We’re very excited and proud that our first pediatric heart transplant was so successful,” said Peter J. Gruber, MD, PhD, chief of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital and vice chair of research and professor of Surgery at Yale School of Medicine. “Our team includes an exceptional group of pediatric cardiac anesthesiologists, cardiologists, coordinators, critical care physicians, nurses, surgical specialists, and many others, who collaborate as equal partners.”

According to the registry of the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation, approximately 600-700 pediatric heart transplantation procedures are performed worldwide each year, representing about 12 percent of the total number of heart transplants performed. In 2016, 710 heart transplants were performed in children worldwide.

“The modern era has seen many remarkable medical and surgical advancements in the treatment of pediatric heart disease that often restore children the promise of full and happy lives,” said Kevin Hall, MD, director, Pediatric Heart Transplant program and Pediatric Heart Failure Program, YNHCH and assistant professor of Pediatrics, Cardiology, Yale School of Medicine. “We share in the happiness and successes of these children and their families. For these children and their families, pediatric heart transplantation offers a true gift of life. We look forward to continuing to share in Alex’s care and we look forward to watching him grow up to greatly change the world for the better.”

“The breadth and depth of our Center’s experience and expertise in the care of children with heart disease cannot be better demonstrated than in this landmark moment,” said Jeremy Asnes, chief, Pediatric Cardiology, medical director, YNHCH Heart Center, director, Congenital Interventional Cardiology, associate professor, Pediatrics, Yale School of Medicine. “We are so grateful for the trust Alex and his family have placed in us.” “This has been such an exciting achievement within our Children’s Heart Center,” said Rebecca Ciaburri, program administrator, YNHCH Heart Center and associate director, Quality, Safety & Program Development, YNHCH. “We have such a phenomenal team of clinicians offering innovative, high quality and safe care while being able to offer the full continuum of cardiac care for any patient.”

Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital (YNHCH) offers Connecticut’s largest and most comprehensive array of pediatric services. With 208 licensed beds, YNHCH includes two neonatal intensive care units, a pediatric cardiac intensive care unit, a pediatric intensive care unit, a pediatric psychiatry unit, an adolescent psychiatry unit, 24-hour Level 1 Pediatric Emergency Trauma Center and a pediatric surgery center. YNHCH, with campuses in New Haven and Bridgeport, is part of the nationally recognized Yale New Haven Hospital, a 1,541-bed not-for-profit teaching hospital affiliated with Yale School of Medicine. The Yale New Haven Hospital campuses and associated ambulatory sites are Magnet-designated by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. In addition to its inpatient units, YNHCH has three Pediatric Specialty Centers in New Haven and others in Greenwich, New London, Norwalk, Old Saybrook and Trumbull to provide specialty care to children closer to their communities.

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