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World's youngest heart transplant survivor profiled by People

Speaking of heart transplants, the current issue of People has a profile of former Stanford patient Lizzy Craze, the world's youngest heart transplant survivor. The 27-year-old had a transplant here in 1984, when she was just 2 years and 10 months old.

Craze, like her siblings, suffered from familial dilated cardiomyopathy, a genetic disorder that causes an enlargement and weakening of the heart. From the piece:

[Lizzy's mother's] brother-in-law, a doctor, pointed the Crazes to surgeon Norman Shumway, whose team at Stanford Hospital was achieving unusual success with heart transplants in younger patients. "If it weren't for Dr. Shumway and his team," Susan says of the surgeon, who died in 2006, we'd have no children."

Because Craze was so young, finding a small enough heart for her initially proved challenging. So:

Shumway's team went on local radio shows to publicize her plight. Weeks later a donor was found: a 2-year-old Utah girl who had died in a car accident. Dr. Phil Oyer, a member of Shumway's team, placed that heart in Lizzy's chest cavity, hoping it might last the then-standard five years. "Making it to 25?" he says. "It's a bit of a miracle."

The article goes on to say that about 370 children now get heart transplants in the U.S. annually, and because of new medications and techniques, the average life span of a transplanted heart has increased to 14 years. As for Craze, she tells the magazine that "I feel triumphant."

For more reading, my colleague wrote this piece last year about Craze and the history of heart transplantation at Stanford and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital.

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