New heart device lets kids be kids

Last summer, Jacque Fair, 11, and her mom, Katrina Fair, found out Jacque had heart failure and needed a transplant.

When kids experience heart failure they often need a transplant to replace their defected organ, and getting a new heart doesn't happen instantly.

Now there's a new device helping the heart do its job without stopping a kid from being a kid.

While she waits for a transplant Jacque will wear a Heartware device, a left ventricular assist device, commonly called an “I-vad”.

"They used to be bigger, bulkier, so only adults could receive them," said Mary Mehegan, a Registered Nurse at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

The pump is implanted in the heart and attaches to a battery pack outside the body.

It takes blood out of the left ventricle and pumps it into the aorta,helping the heart function when it's too weak to do so on its own.

The device is small enough to be used in kids and it is portable so patients don't have to stay in the hospital.

Fewer than ten children's hospitals in the nation use these devices.

"It's a beautiful thing to let a child go home while they're still in heart failure,” said Mehegan

Jacque says the device has given her freedom.

"If I wasn't on here, I'd probably be in the hospital, not allowed to do anything, taped up to the wall,” said Jacque

She's looking forward to her transplant, but says she's happy she can still be a kid while she waits.

REPORT #2082

BACKGROUND: In order for a child to grow and develop, the heart needs to maintain normal pump function to provide optimal blood flow throughout the body. However, sometimes the heart of a child may not function normally. Heart failure occurs in adults because of the effects of smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary artery disease, and bad heart valves. It can occur in newborns, infants, toddlers, and teenagers for other reasons. (Source:
CAUSES: There are two primary causes for heart failure.
1. Over-circulation failure: It occurs when blood mixes inside the heart due to a congenital heart defect. About one percent of all newborn infants will have some type of structural heart defect. In some of the defects, there are holes between the right and left chambers inside the heart and because of these holes, the blue and red bloods mix inside the heart. A defect of blood vessels in the head or other body parts can cause similar mixing of the blue and red blood but outside the heart. Also, abnormal heart valves can cause heart failure. Rarely, a strep throat infection can cause damage to normal heart valve, causing them to leak as well. Finally, anemia can also result in heart failure. These defects lead to over-circulation failure.
2. Pump failure: Like an adult, a child's heart may develop pump failure. This can be due to a virus infection that damages otherwise normal heart muscles or from problems with the coronary arteries that occur from birth. Teenagers and older children may complain of becoming tired quickly, especially if a virus has caused heart muscle damage. Certain drugs, some necessary to treat other medical problems like cancer, can also damage the heart. Rarely, severe chest trauma may damage the heart. Children with muscular dystrophy may eventually also develop problems with their heart. In other cases, the heart muscle fails to function normally and the heart becomes an inefficient pump. (Source: and
HEARTWARE: Adults with heart failure have the option to use an internal ventricular assist device to bridge their heart for a transplant. Now, kids are receiving that option too. "Application of this technology in children may eventually allow physicians to 'defer' a decision on transplantation and give a child's native heart a better chance for recovery," Dr. Canter, director of the heart transplant program at St. Louis Children's Hospital, was quoted as saying. "It also allows patients with end-stage heart failure who are not heart transplant candidates to have effective therapy." It is believed that fewer than ten children's hospitals in the nation have used implantable ventricular assist devices. HeartWare is a disk-like device that is sewn into the heart's left ventricle that pumps blood when the heart is too weak to do so on its own. It is connected by a lead through the abdominal wall to a controller and battery pack that fit into a small handbag and weighs less than four pounds, making it possible for a child to be discharged from the hospital. (Source:
? For More Information, Contact:

Jackie Ferman
Manager, Media Relations
St. Louis Children's Hospital
(314) 286-0304

Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
powered by Disqus
WNDU - Channel 16 54516 State Road 933 South Bend, IN 46637 Front Desk: 574-284-3000 Newsroom: 574-284-3016 Email:
Gray Television, Inc. - Copyright © 2002-2014 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 252319671 -