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About Sickkids
About SickKids

June 25, 2009

Baby Lily gets a new heart

PEI infant undergoes successful transplant at SickKids

TORONTO – Baby Lillian O’Connor received a new heart on Tuesday. The three-and-a-half month old baby from PEI, who had been waiting for a heart transplant since she was born, is now recovering at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto.

The nearly six-hour surgery was a success and the next morning, Lily was active and alert.

“Lillian is doing very well since receiving a new heart,” says Dr. Seema Mital, Staff Transplant Cardiologist and Associate Scientist at SickKids and Associate Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Toronto. “Her successful heart transplant is the result of months of an intensive team effort that involved nurses, intensivists, cardiologists, surgeons, anaesthetists, and many other health-care professionals. The team worked together, first to keep her old heart going for this long, and now, to successfully transplant a new one. While many challenges still lie ahead, we are all really pleased at how well she's doing after a long and complex transplant surgery.”

At 20 weeks gestation, Lily was diagnosed with truncus arteriosus, a rare congenital heart defect that causes a lack of sufficient oxygen in the blood. Her parents, Melanie Bernard and Kevin O’Connor, were told there was a possibility she would be stillborn. She was born on March 9, but needed urgent medical care.

Truncus arteriosus is usually corrected with surgery; however, Lily had other problems with her heart that would have made the surgery too risky. She needed a heart transplant to survive. Without a new heart, it was expected that Lily would have only a few weeks or months to live.

“I am extremely happy for baby Lillian and her family. A lifesaving transplant means a second chance at life,” says Frank Markel, President and CEO of Trillium Gift of Life Network. “This transplant was possible because of the generosity of a family who made the decision to donate their loved one’s organs and save the precious lives of others. I would also like to congratulate the transplant team at SickKids."

Bernard and O’Connor are now able to think about the future with their little girl. “It’s been a long journey. We are ready to begin a new chapter and start being a “normal” family,” they say.  In a normal heart, deoxygenated blood travels from the heart to the lungs. Oxygenated blood then goes back through the heart and flows to the rest of the body.

In truncus arteriosus, a single great artery, or “trunk”, comes out of the heart’s ventricles (two lower chambers of the heart), instead of the usual pulmonary artery and aorta. This is typically accompanied by a ventricular septal defect (a hole between the ventricles), which results in blood from both ventricles mixing together. Since the oxygenated and deoxygenated blood gets mixed, the oxygen levels are lower than normal in the blood that is delivered to the body. The single trunk also causes extra blood to flow to the lungs, with less blood ultimately reaching the body.

Truncus arteriosus affects one newborn per 25,000 live births.

For more information about truncus arteriosus, as well as images and animation, please visit About Kids Health.

Finding paediatric organ donors that match the intended recipient is an ongoing challenge, especially for infants. Previously, donor hearts of suitable size and compatible blood type were often not found in time to save babies on the transplant waiting list. In 1996, groundbreaking research at SickKids led to the discovery that infants could safely and successfully accept heart transplants of a different blood type, also known as an ABO-incompatible heart transplant.

The world-class SickKids Transplant Centre provides international leadership in clinical care, education and research. Each year, more than 50 children undergo transplants here with outstanding results that rival the best programs in the world.

About SickKids
The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), affiliated with the University of Toronto, is Canada’s most research-intensive hospital and the largest centre dedicated to improving children’s health in the country. As innovators in child health, SickKids improves the health of children by integrating care, research and teaching. Our mission is to provide the best in complex and specialized care by creating scientific and clinical advancements, sharing our knowledge and expertise and championing the development of an accessible, comprehensive and sustainable child health system. For more information, please visit www.sickkids.ca. SickKids is committed to healthier children for a better world.

About Trillium Gift of Life Network
Trillium Gift of Life Network is a not-for-profit agency of the Government of Ontario and is responsible for planning, promoting, coordinating and supporting organ and tissue donation across Ontario and improving the system so that more lives can be saved.

For more information, please contact:

Matet Nebres
The Hospital for Sick Children
Phone: 416-813-6380
email: matet.nebres@sickkids.ca

Suzanne Gold
The Hospital for Sick Children
Phone: 416-813-7654 ext. 2059
email: suzanne.gold@sickkids.ca