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Anatomy of a pediatric heart transplant

Last week we wrote about the emotions surrounding pediatric heart transplants. In a piece on Well today, a transplant doctor provides a first-hand account of what happens before and after transplant surgery - and shares his own emotions involving the heart's origin:

Coordination and timing of a heart transplant could become an Olympic event, involving at least two teams at two hospitals – a harvest team and a donor team — each with a different set of objectives. I will make at least 10 calls before I get to the hospital. Dozens of people on our transplant team will be alerted: cardiologists, nurses, anesthesiologists, surgeons, intensivists, perfusionists. As is customary, we send our own team of surgeons to pick up the heart. Other transplant teams may also be involved, sending their own sleep-deprived surgeons in to harvest the lungs, liver or kidney.

The donor story is always horrible. The children frequently succumb to trauma, terminal illness or, perhaps most tragic of all, child abuse. The donor stories stay with me, and lately I have stopped asking how the child died. I cannot forget the father who, backing out of his driveway, accidentally ran over his child. My children still don’t understand why, whenever they are playing basketball in our driveway, I make them stop and line up where I can see them before I pull my car out.

Previously: Pediatric social worker discusses the emotional side of heart transplants and One family – and five children with same serious heart disease

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