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Stanford University School of Medicine

Stanford team uses innovative method to keep teen alive for heart transplant

Stanford cardiothoracic surgeon Richard Ha, MD, didn't shy away from the challenge presented by teenager Abraham Maga last August.

Maga's heart and lungs had failed and he "would have died very quickly" without an intervention, Joseph Woo, MD, told ABC 7 News in the video above. The traditional method of keeping Maga alive using a device called an ECMO (for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) would have required he stay in bed until a heart was available for transplantation. But lying in bed isn't a recipe for remaining strong and healthy, Ha said.

Instead Ha figured out a way to connect the device directly to Maga's heart rather than through an artery, allowing the boy to leave his bed and even leave the hospital.

"And we took him outside, and that was a first for us taking a patient on ECMO outside," Ha told ABC 7. The shot of Maga, surrounded by equipment and care providers, is well worth a look.

In all, Maga needed the device for four months and entered the transplant stronger than he otherwise would have, Woo said. Now, Maga is recovering following his December surgery and has hopes of entering college to become an architect.

Previously: Internal pump helps young patient wait for a heart transplant out of the hospital, Giving thanks: A heart transplant recipient's happy reunion and Following heart repair and liver transplant, baby Owen returns to the Midwest

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