Although many advances have been made in temporary heart pumps for adults, the same has not been true for children. But, that’s changing for patients at Seattle Children’s Hospital, and it’s making a big difference in their health and quality of life.
When Julie Kobayashi arrived from Hawaii last December, time was running out. She was diagnosed with myocarditis, inflamation of the heart muscle's wall.
The doctors were concerned she would not survive till transplant and placed a device in her that looks like a plumping elbow joint, an implantable heart pump that serves as a temporary fix until a transplant becomes available. Dick Cheney got one back in 2010 – also known as a left ventricular assist device or L-VAD -- but previous versions were too big for children.
The HeartMate II model is 60 percent smaller.
Before this, the Berlin heart pump would have been Kobayashi’s best option. But Dr. Michael McMullan said it has drawbacks.
He said, “Children who require this are stuck in the hospital because even though this is a small device it's connected to a large console that controls the pump.”
Instead, Kobayashi became only the third patient at Seattle Children’s to get the HeartMate II. She said she started eating more and enjoying life outside of the room.
"I wouldn't be alive now if it wasn't for that machine,” said Kobayashi.
"We can't believe she's actually, you know, her old self again," said her mom.
After her transplant, Kobayashi has big plans.
Kobayashi said, “Well, Dr. McMullan gave the approval that I can go ice skating, so I'll be begging my mom to go ice skating or rollerblading.”