Teen Dances for Joy After Receiving Heart Transplant

June 13, 2017

On the surface, Amari Hall appears like any other teenager. He enjoys dancing, watching sports and chatting up girls.

But the 15-year-old from Capitol Heights, Md. has lived an extraordinary life, defying medical odds.

Amari was born with a rare heart defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS). Only about 960 babies in the United States are born each year with HLHS. For unknown reasons, the heart’s main pumping chamber, the left ventricle, does not develop completely prior to birth, which causes the right ventricle to have to take on the extra workload and pump harder. That stress can cause the right heart to fail and the baby to die. Treatment options are few, and only 50 to 60 percent of children with HLHS live to see their fifth birthday.

By the time Amari was four years old, he’d had three open-heart surgeries to reconstruct and connect the left and right sides of his heart. These surgeries allowed Amari to go on and have a relatively normal childhood.

As he entered his teenage years, Amari’s heart increasingly had trouble keeping up with his body’s growth spurts. It began to weaken and fail. A heart transplant was Amari’s only option for survival.

In December 2016, he became an inpatient at University of Maryland Children’s Hospital in Baltimore, and was moved to the top of the waiting list to receive a heart transplant. Months went by; Amari and his family waited, and waited. Amari spent Christmas and his fifteenth birthday in the hospital. He missed his school friends and social life. Through it all, Amari maintained a positive spirit and never gave up hope.

Finally, in March 2017, a donor heart became available.

“Because of all the surgical interventions Amari has endured up to this point, his body’s immune system has built up antibodies in the blood called immunoglobulins,” says Sunjay Kaushal, PhD, MD, associate professor of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and director of pediatric and adult congenital surgery at University of Maryland Children’s Hospital. This means his immune system is essentially revved up and running on overdrive. “We had to carefully screen the potential donor heart. Luckily, we found a heart that met all the criteria.”

The transplant surgery was performed by Dr. Kaushal and his team. Dr. Kaushal, who specializes in pediatric cardiac surgery, is currently leading research on pediatric patients with HLHS so that one day in the future, children may not have to go through what Amari has gone through.

The transplant was a success.

To read the full news story from umm.edu, click here.


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