Artificial heart keeps toddler alive for 251 days

A 3-year-old boy gets new heart after being kept alive by an artificial organ for more than eight months

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Joe Skerratt, 3, has survived 251 days with an artificial heart while waiting for an organ donor to be found.

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Joe underwent a successful heart transplant at Great Ormond Street Hospital last year, after being attached to a heart machine for longer than any other child in the UK to date.

It was touch and go for Joe, who was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy soon after he was born, as he suffered three heart failures in just over a year.

Joe’s mum and dad faced an excruciating wait for a donor heart. Their toddler spent a record-breaking 251 days attached to the artificial organ, called the Berlin heart, a which is roughly the size of a small fridge.

“When Joe passed the 200 day mark on the Berlin heart we started to really question what else could be done if a heart wasn’t found, but we knew deep down there wouldn’t be much,” said Joe’s mum Rachel. “On day 251 the call we had been waiting for came. We were offered a heart for Joe. The call came early in the morning and time seemed to stand still before he was taken down to theatre.”

Rachel added, “Seeing his new heart – a normal size and thumping away in his chest, was incredible.”

After making a full recovery in hospital on his first night back at home in Medway, Kent Joe was treated to his favourite meal of pizza with big sister Harriet, 7, his mum Rachel and dad Mark.

Joe’s parents have called for others to join the NHS organ donor register. “We cannot image what they [the donor family] went through, their generosity of thought at such a horrendous time is completely selfless and amazing,” said Rachel.

To find out more about organ donation or to join the NHS organ donor register visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk.

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