Jaheim, 11

At a Glance:

  • Jaheim is the smallest and youngest patient to receive the SynCardia 50cc temporary Total Artificial Heart (TAH).
  • He was born with a congenital heart defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome and received his first heart transplant in 2012.
  • Four years later, when his body began to reject his donor heart, Jaheim’s doctors implanted the 50cc TAH to bridge him to a second transplant.
  • After 280 days of support with the TAH, Jaheim received his second donor heart.

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 four 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), 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.”

Jaheim is all smiles during a press conference announcing Lurie Children’s first implant of the SynCardia TAH to save his life.

It's an amazing thing to be here and have my kid be with me every single day, and to know we have a team fighting for us is amazing.

Michael, Jaheim’s father

New Hope for a Brighter Future

During the news conference, Jaheim’s parents, who had already lost two other children to hypoplastic left heart syndrome, expressed their gratitude for the Lurie Children’s care team and the hope the SynCardia TAH had given them.

“It’s hard for me, but when I look at Jaheim, it makes me smile and gives me motivation,” said his mother LaKim with tears in her eyes.

In front of a crowd of reporters and hospital staff, Jaheim was able to hug his younger brother Raheim for the first time since his implant surgery, a moment that brought Jaheim to tears, as well as many in the room.

A Stronger, Healthier Transplant Candidate

Just a few days later, Jaheim was switched to the Freedom® Portable Driver, a smaller, lighter pump for the TAH, which can be worn in the Backpack or Shoulder Bag and provides increased mobility around the hospital.

Severely underweight prior to receiving the TAH because of his heart failure, Jaheim gained more than 10 pounds while waiting for his matching donor heart, which helped him become stronger and healthier for his transplant.

After 280 days of support with the TAH, the call finally came that a matching donor heart was available, and Jaheim received his second heart transplant (and his fourth heart). Discharged from the hospital in November 2017, Jaheim can finally go back to his most important job: being a kid.

Photo credits: Jan Terry, Lurie Children's Hospital