Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Reversing a heart transplant: A tribute to Sir Magdi Yaccoub

10 years ago, Hannah Clark was 2 yrs old and very ill with heart failure due to a possible viral infection of the heart which caused the heart muscle to swell and failed. There were no Left Ventricular Assist device then, and the baby girl was dying. By the grace of God, the parents consulted a great cardiac surgeon who could think out of the box and do something not done before. True, earlier, Dr Christian Barnard has pioneered piggybacking a strong baboon heart to a failing adult heart, in a hetereotropic heart transplant. Dr Barnard found that there was not enough space in an adult chest for two hearts.

In the case of Hannah, Sir Magdi found enough place in the chest to hitch a donor heart to Hannah's own heart. He was able to keep Hannah's heart alive and beating, but rested. He managed to let the donor heart do most of the work. This will truly requires great surgical skill. Talking about it is difficult enough, imagine having to carry it out. When the donor heart began to be rejected by Hannah's own body, Hannah's own heart had recovered enough to take over her body's circulation. The reverse transplant operation was a great success, and little Hannah has another chance. I hope she recovers from the lymph gland cancer, which may have been related to her transplant anti-rejection drugs. This really is a great day for cardiac surgery. One man with enough courage to do boldly go, where no cardiac surgeon had gone before. And little Hannah and mum are very grateful.

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