For an 11-year-old, Jaheim has a lot of heart; in fact, he’s had four of them. Born with a congenital heart defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome, in which the heart has just one working chamber, Jaheim received his first heart transplant in 2012. But years later, during a routine check-up at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, tests revealed that his body had begun to reject his donor heart.
Jaheim was immediately admitted to the hospital and treated intensively for rejection. Several weeks later, however, his other organ systems began to fail. To save his life, Lurie Children’s cardiac surgeons removed his failing donor heart and implanted the SynCardia 50cc temporary Total Artificial Heart (TAH), at the time, making Jaheim the world’s youngest and smallest person to receive the device.
“This device is actually making him a better candidate for a transplant,” said nurse Ann Mead, RN, CCU, during a news conference announcing the implant. “Many times, what happens is that a patient’s body becomes quite frail because of the other organs that are involved that make a heart transplant a greater risk. But with physical and occupational therapy and better nutrition to make him stronger, the artificial heart makes Jaheim a better candidate when a heart is available. He can already walk around and do other things he couldn’t do before he had the artificial heart.”