St. Louis Children’s and Washington University Heart Center Perform Rare Infant Heart-Lung Transplant

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Jack Palmer is the youngest patient in more than a decade to undergo a successful heart-lung transplant.

Jack Palmer is the youngest patient in more than a decade to undergo a successful heart-lung transplant.

“He’s interactive, he’s playful, he seems to be developing normally,” said Pirooz Eghtesady, MD, chief of pediatric cardiothoracic surgery with Washington University at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “Right now, it looks like he’s going to be a normal kid and that’s very exciting.”

Jack Palmer is home with his family in Kansas City after undergoing an extremely rare heart-lung transplant at St. Louis Children’s and Washington University Heart Center in May. At five months of age, Jack was the youngest patient to undergo this surgery successfully in more than a decade.

Heart Center physicians tried the procedure as an alternative treatment after Jack was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) with an intact atrial septum and severely damaged lungs – a congenital heart defect in which the baby essentially has half of a heart. Traditionally infants born with HLHS undergo a series of three surgeries in an attempt to correct the condition, but most do not survive.

Combined heart-lung transplants are so rare that Jack’s was the only one performed, thus far, in the United States in 2018. St. Louis Children’s Hospital is a national leader in multi-organ transplantation and is known for taking cases that have been turned away from other premier pediatric hospitals due to the high level of risk. The last successful heart-lung transplant in the U.S. also took place at Children’s in 2017 for 15-year-old Spencer Kolman.

Jack’s parents, Chuck and Tiffany Palmer, discovered their son’s condition during a routine ultrasound. The family was given little-to-no hope for the baby’s survival, but the Palmers wouldn’t give up. They were referred to two different pediatric heart centers and were declined therapy both times; however, when Pirooz Eghtesady, MD, chief of pediatric cardiothoracic surgery with Washington University at St. Louis Children’s Hospital learned about Jack's story, he thought he could take a different approach.

“My thought process was if we keep doing what people have done historically, we’re going to keep getting the same results,” said Dr. Eghtesady. “Truthfully, he had a difficult and stormy course early on and there were times that people had lost hope and didn’t think he was going to make it through, but he did. I am grateful that his parents trusted us enough to give us the privilege of caring for him.”

Almost immediately after surgery, Jack’s parents noticed he seemed like a new baby. “The first thing I noticed was how pink he was,” said Tiffany. “He was intubated for a few weeks after, but he was awake and could interact and smile.”

“He’s interactive, he’s playful, he seems to be developing normally,” said Dr. Eghtesady. “Right now, it looks like he’s going to be a normal kid and that’s very exciting.”

The Heart Center at St. Louis Children’s and Washington University is the largest in the region, caring for nearly 5,000 pediatric patients over the past 10 years. In many cases, they are creating the new standards of care for children with complex heart conditions.

For more information about the St. Louis Children’s and Washington University Heart Center, visit StLouisChildrens.org. Videos and photos of Baby Jack be found at:

ST. LOUIS CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL
For more than 130 years, St. Louis Children's Hospital has provided exceptional care for children in all 50 states and 80 countries around the world. With its academic partner, Washington University School of Medicine, Children’s is consistently ranked among the nation’s best pediatric hospitals by U.S. News & World Report. A member of BJC HealthCare, St. Louis Children’s Hospital follows one simple mission – to do what’s right for kids. That mission comes to life through medical discovery, innovative therapies and compassionate care. In 2018, Children's expanded with a state-of-the-art, 12-story medical tower. Children’s relies on generous donors to deliver specialized care for families in need, extend health care services to the community, and pursue research that promises to transform pediatric medicine. To find out more, visit StLouisChildrens.org, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Laura High
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