The holidays are extra special this year for a Broward County teen who went home for the holidays with a second chance at life as well as for the medical and heart transplant teams from Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital who made it happen.
Timothy received a new heart during the early morning hours of December 1, just a few weeks after his 16th birthday, making him the 50th transplant recipient for the Pediatric Heart Transplant Team at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital.
Timothy, his family and his heart transplant team celebrated his new heart and the hospital’s milestone by reuniting exactly a week before Christmas on December 18 at the Conine Clubhouse located on the pediatric hospital’s campus. The Clubhouse serves as a home away from home for families of children receiving medical care at the hospital.
During the press conference, Timothy thanked the entire heart transplant team for helping him and his family get through this unexpected and challenging situation.
“It was difficult and hard for someone like me, who’d been healthy my whole life, to have to get a heart transplant,” Timothy said.
When asked what he wanted for Christmas, he said his gift of a new life was all he needed.
“It’s amazing to have a second chance at life, and I couldn’t ask for anything else.”
Timothy’s aunt, Marcia, also expressed her gratitude to the team and donor family, calling Timothy’s second chance at life a miracle.
“Our family believes in prayer, and to look at Timothy today compared to where he was a few months ago, we call it a miracle,” Marcia said. “To the donor family, thank you. We know it’s hard to make the decision to give part of your loved one to save someone else, and we hope we meet you all in the near future.”
The entire pediatric heart transplant team was overjoyed to be a part of Timothy’s second chance at life.
“It takes a village to help people that are as sick as our patients with end-stage heart failure. If it weren’t for this [pediatric heart transplant] program, many children in Broward County and South Florida would not be here,” said Frank Scholl, MD, Surgical Director of Heart Transplantation and Chief of the Heart Institute at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital.
Like most teens, Timothy was enjoying the high school life, spending time with friends, working hard on his grades and playing the French horn for his school’s marching band.
Halfway through his junior year, Timothy started feeling sluggish and fatigued. He had to sleep sitting up, and it was at this point his parents brought him to the emergency room at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital.
An evaluation by the cardiac team revealed grim news. He needed a new heart. Timothy was suffering from dilated cardiomyopathy, a primary disease of the heart muscle that prevents the heart from pumping blood effectively. Timothy waited for a new heart in the hospital for two months, under the care of the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital heart transplant and critical care teams.
Timothy went home on December 8, 2018 to enjoy his second chance at life and just in time to spend the holidays with his family.
“I’m very happy for Tim and his family. He’s an example of all of our patients who’ve gone through the program and are doing well. It takes a large team, including nurses and respiratory therapists, to provide minute-by-minute care to get children as healthy as can be to be able to be ready for their heart transplant," said Gerald Lavandosky, MD, Chief of Staff at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital.
The Pediatric Heart Transplant program began on December 10, 2010, when the hospital received approval at the federal level from UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing). The approval of the program was the culmination of years of strategic planning, including the formation of a pediatric cardiac transplant team with the right mix of expertise and compassion. Five days after program approval, the cardiac transplant team performed the hospital’s and Broward County’s first pediatric heart transplant.
“We’ve had the opportunity to participate in the lives of 50 transplant families and many more families with children who are affected with cardiomyopathies, heart failure and other cardiac conditions," said Maryanne Chrisant, MD, Director, Pediatric Cardiac Transplant, Heart Failure and Cardiomyopathy at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital. “What we do for one child has a lasting and positive impact on the whole family.”
The expansion of the pediatric heart transplant program is on the horizon as well, according to Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital CEO Caitlin Beck Stella, MPH.
“Some hospitals have taken 50 years to do what Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital has done in 10 years," Stella said. “We look forward to expanding our pediatric heart services to continue to screen and take care of babies and children with heart failure."