ACH Celebrates Heart Week, Including 2011 Milestone of 31 Heart Transplants

ACH Celebrates Heart Week, Including 2011 Milestone of 31 Heart Transplants

LITTLE ROCK, AR. (Feb. 14, 2012) - For any family, enduring weeks of uncertainty and fear as their infant awaits a heart transplant can be devastating. But the Tadlock family of Wickes, Ark. has braved this experience twice since 2008. Their daughters MaggieJo, 3, and Charliekate, 3 months, have both received new hearts from the hands of one of the nation's most experienced transplantation teams, the Heart Center at Arkansas Children's Hospital (ACH).

"This world is so different from the one we lived in before Maggiejo was born," said the girls' mother, Amy Tadlock. "It's our new normal, and we wouldn't be here without the surgeons, nurses, cardiologists, techs and everyone else at ACH."

Both girls were born with spongiform cardiomyopathy, a congenital heart disease that occurs when the heart muscle doesn't solidify normally during fetal development. Maggiejo was admitted to ACH after a health crisis when she was 5 weeks old, and Charliekate was diagnosed before she was born, when her mother underwent an ultrasound 32 weeks into her pregnancy. They are the youngest of the Tadlocks' five daughters.

Charliekate's transplant in December was one of 31 such life-saving procedures that the team at ACH performed in 2011 - the most it has ever conducted in a year and setting a record among the nation's pediatric medical centers. As ACH marks National Congenital Heart Defects Awareness Week, it does so as one of the nation's busiest heart transplant centers.

The transplants were conducted by a hard-working team of dozens of physicians, nurses, techs and support staff led by ACH Chief of Pediatric and Congenital Cardiothoracic Surgery Michiaki Imamura, MD, PhD, and ACH Pediatric Cardiovascular Surgeon Takeshi Shinkawa, MD. Dr. Imamura is an associate professor and Dr. Shinkawa is an assistant professor of Surgery in the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) College of Medicine. Each heart transplant surgery takes between six and 10 hours, and requires the specialized services of several disciplines within the hospital.

The milestone means that 31 children from across the state and region who were previously in critical condition and at imminent risk of heart failure now are at home with their families, going to school and once again playing with their friends.

"We cannot underestimate the power of transplants to give these children a completely different quality of life," said Elizabeth Frazier, MD, director of pediatric heart transplant at ACH and a professor of Pediatrics in the UAMS College of Medicine. "They certainly face a hard road ahead, but transplant completely changes their outlook."

Many of the patients who received new hearts during 2011 had previously been on bridge-to-transplant technologies like the Berlin Heart, a German ventricular assist device tailored for children. Three also had experienced heart-lung bypass, known as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, while others were facing a second transplant as adolescent and teens. These technologies allow children to live longer while they await a matching heart from a donor.

While there are many factors that influence transplantation rates, ACH's location at the center of a six-state region across which organs can be donated plays a part. A donated heart can only travel for about four hours before being implanted. In addition, some contiguous states do not have medical centers that perform pediatric heart transplantation.

"We also believe that better technologies and awareness are leading to more children being diagnosed and sent us to us earlier," Frazier said. "That means they are living longer and receiving the chance to be transplanted, where they may not have in the past."

The record also shows ACH's progress from a fledgling children's heart program in 1990, when the first transplant was performed, to essentially a pediatric cardiovascular hospital within a larger hospital today.

The high number of children requiring transplant in Arkansas last year underscores the dire need for organ donation, as well.

"Each child who received a heart transplant at ACH benefitted from an incredible gift from a family they may never meet," said MJ McDaniel, RN, vice president of patient care at ACH. "Organ donation provides a powerful legacy and brings new life to the recipients."

The Tadlock family is especially grateful for the decisions made by two families to donate their children's organs.

"It must be the hardest decision anyone ever makes, but in their sorrow they gave us two priceless gifts," Amy Tadlock said. "We are grateful to donor families every moment of every day."

The Tadlocks encourage all families to discuss the importance and impact of organ donation. For more info on how you can become an organ donor in Arkansas, visit http://donatelifearkansas.org/.

Arkansas Children's Hospital is the only pediatric medical center in Arkansas and one of the largest in the United States serving children. ACH celebrates 100 years of providing care, love and hope in 2012. In those years, the campus has grown to 29 city blocks and houses 316 beds, a staff of approximately 500 physicians, 80 residents in pediatrics and pediatric specialties and more than 4,000 employees. The private, nonprofit healthcare facility boasts an internationally renowned reputation for medical breakthroughs and intensive treatments, unique surgical procedures and forward-thinking medical research - all dedicated to fulfilling our mission of enhancing, sustaining and restoring children's health and development. For more information, visit archildrens.org or ach100.org.

UAMS is the state's only comprehensive academic health center, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Related Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a statewide network of regional centers; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute, the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging and the Translational Research Institute. Named best Little Rock metropolitan area hospital by U.S. News & World Report, it is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has more than 2,800 students and 775 medical residents. It is the state's largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including nearly 1,150 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children's Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS' Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. Visit www.uams.edu or www.uamshealth.com.

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