118 Days Without a Heart
Reported August 31, 2009
MIAMI, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- In the United States, about 30,000
children have a dangerously enlarged heart. More children die from the
condition than cancer, but there has been little done to improve the odds.
Outcomes are the same today as they were 30 years ago. One teenager with an
enlarged heart made history as she fought for her life.
She's only 15 years old, but D'Zhana Simmons feels lucky to be alive.
"Basically, I was a miracle child," D'Zhana told Ivanhoe.
"Nobody on the face of this earth has a reason to worry that there's not a
God up above who takes care of you," D'Zhana's mother, Twolla Anderson, told
Last summer, D'Zhana was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy -- a dangerously
"Her heart failure was so severe that she had no other choice but a heart
transplant," Marco Ricci, M.D., a pediatric cardiac surgeon at Holtz
Children's Hospital in Miami, Fla., told Ivanhoe.
She got that transplant after only a week on the waiting list, but the heart
"It was scary," D'Zhana said.
While she waited for a second heart, Dr. Ricci and his team at Holtz
Children's Hospital kept her alive with a heart assist machine.
"Normally, the machine is connected to the heart," Dr. Ricci said. "In her
case, the heart was removed, so the machine had to be connected to the blood
D'Zhana walked the halls of the hospital with no heart as the machine pumped
life through her body.
"It had never been done in a pediatric patient," Dr. Ricci said.
D'Zhana lived without a heart for 118 days until a second one became
"I'm very thankful," D'Zhana said.
The second transplant was a success, and D'Zhana's family can finally look
toward the future without fear.
"I think she'll be able to accomplish anything she sets her mind to," mom
She's a teen taking on a new phase of her life with a new, improved heart.
D'Zhana's transplanted heart is working fine. Dr. Ricci does not believe
she'd be alive if they had not tried this new approach. He knows of only two
adults this has ever been tried on, but neither lived as long on the machine
with no heart as D'Zhana did.
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