Texas Children’s Hospital discharges first pediatric Total Artificial Heart patient to wait for donor heart at home

HOUSTON  – Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, the first pediatric hospital in the world to implant the only approved Total Artificial Heart into the chest of a teen, is now sending the patient home. Jordan Merecka, 18, will be using the Freedom® portable driver, a wearable power supply that can be carried in a backpack and run his Total Artificial Heart while he waits for a donor heart.

View a video of Jordan and his new backpack

Jordan is a history-making teen whose life was saved in a rare 15-hour operation on May 22, when doctors implanted the SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart. After spending three months tethered to a 418-pound machine called “Big Blue” that powered his Total Artificial Heart while he was in the hospital, the teen will now leave the hospital wearing the Freedom driver, a battery-operated, 13.5-lb portable power supply that allows him to move around freely.

“It was always our plan to move Jordan to the Freedom driver as soon as he was strong enough and had met all the protocol guidelines,” said Dr. David L.S. Morales, pediatric cardiovascular surgeon at Texas Children’s Heart Center and associate professor of surgery and pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM), who surgically implanted the Total Artificial Heart. “Jordan has been hospitalized for several months and is missing out on being at home and seeing his friends. The team who manages Jordan’s care realizes that he will gain a morale boost by being out of the hospital enjoying a more active teen life as he waits for heart transplantation.”

Jordan, born with his heart on the wrong side of his chest (dextrocardia) and his heart vessels backwards (corrected transposition of the great arteries) underwent a history-making heart surgery at Texas Children’s Heart Center, where his native heart was removed and replaced by the Total Artificial Heart. The heart is pneumatically driven by precisely calibrated pulses of air and vacuum and is approved as a bridge to transplant for patients suffering from end-stage heart failure affecting both sides of the heart (biventricular failure) who might die before a donor heart becomes available.

“We have been monitoring Jordan for the last few months since receiving his artificial heart and his recovery has been going extremely well. The artificial heart has improved his overall health and we are excited the Freedom driver will allow him to enjoy increased activity during the wait for a donor heart,” said Dr. Jeffrey Dreyer, medical director of cardiac transplantation at Texas Children’s Hospital and associate professor of pediatrics (cardiology) at BCM. “He will still need a donor heart, but we now have time to wait for the best match.”

Jordan is participating in the FDA-approved Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) clinical study of the Freedom portable driver. Wearing the Freedom driver in a backpack, Jordan has mobility to leave the hospital and return to his Cypress home, a suburb of Houston. He looks forward to fishing with friends in a nearby lake and playing with his dog. As a recent graduate of Cypress Woods High School, he plans to take online college courses while he awaits the gift of a real heart. Ultimately, he would like to attend Texas A&M University Galveston and earn a degree in marine biology — a long-time dream of his.

“Having Jordan home again is the best gift in the world,” said Suzanne Merecka, Jordan’s mother. “The artificial heart was a blessing when he needed it desperately and his father and I are glad that Texas Children’s could offer a life-saving option when things looked very grim. He still has a heart transplant in his future, but the artificial heart has helped him grow stronger. He will be ready when the time comes.”

Jordan’s story
Jordan was born with multiple congenital heart defects, including dextrocardia, or a “reversed” heart. As a child, he experienced two open chest surgeries. Later, he received several surgical revisions and an implantable defibrillator. But, in September 2010, Jordan’s heart began to fail and he was placed on a waiting list for a heart transplant. With medical treatment, he was able to attend school as he waited. In April 2011, his health took a turn for the worse and he was admitted to Texas Children’s Hospital with heart failure symptoms and kidney insufficiency. He was in critical need of a heart transplant. Weeks passed as he waited for a donor heart and made multiple visits to the cardiovascular intensive care unit. Over the weekend of May 21, all of his organs began to fail acutely and he could not even breathe on his own since his heart was so weak. On May 22, Jordan received the Total Artificial Heart that saved his life. He still remains on the heart transplant list.

Texas Children’s Heart Center – a leader with heart-failure devices
Earlier this year, Texas Children’s Hospital became the world’s first pediatric hospital to complete the first and second phase of certification to implant the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart as a bridge to transplant for their patients. The 15-member training team, which included cardiologists, critical care intensivists, anesthesiologists, nursing specialists and hematologists, was led by Dr. David L.S. Morales, also director of mechanical circulation support at Texas Children’s Hospital. The certification prepared the team for Jordan’s life saving implantation of the Total Artificial Heart.

Since 2004, when Texas Children’s Heart Center implanted the first MicroMed/DeBakey Child Ventricular Assist Device (VAD), the hospital’s pediatric cardiac experts have been committed to saving the lives of patients whose hearts are failing through the use of mechanical devices, when needed. Texas Children’s Hospital heart failure program presently uses seven different types of mechanical circulatory support devices so that no matter what the cause of a child’s heart failure or their size and weight, we can use the best device for that individual patient.

The devices include the Berlin Heart (the only VAD for babies and younger children), the HeartMate II for adolescents and teens, plus the RotaFlow, Tandem Heart, Thoratec Paracoporeal VAD, the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart, and the HeartWare.

Learn more about Texas Children’s Heart Center.

About Texas Children’s Heart Center
Texas Children’s Heart Center is a self-contained pediatric heart treatment facility within Texas Children’s Hospital. Its unique design provides a single point of care including examinations, echocardiography, heart catheterization, congenital heart surgery and intensive care. This special setting enhances the continuum and delivery of care. The Heart Center sees more than 19,000 patients and performs more than 800 surgeries annually.

About Texas Children’s Hospital
Texas Children’s Hospital is committed to a community of healthy children by providing the finest pediatric patient care, education and research. Renowned worldwide for its expertise and breakthrough developments in clinical care and research, Texas Children’s is ranked in the top 10 best children’s hospitals by U.S. News and World Report. Texas Children’s also operates the nation’s largest primary pediatric care network, with over 40 offices throughout the greater Houston community. Texas Children’s has embarked on a $1.5 billion expansion, Vision 2010, which includes a neurological research institute, a comprehensive obstetrics facility focusing on high risk births, and a community hospital in suburban West Houston. Get the latest Texas Children’s news on Twitter: www.twitter.com/texaschildrens.

About SynCardia Systems, Inc.
SynCardia Systems, Inc. is the Tucson-based manufacturer of the world’s only FDA, Health Canada and CE approved Total Artificial Heart: the SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart. For additional information, please visit: http://www.syncardia.com