Device Keeps Little Girl Awaiting Heart Transplant Alive

A six-year-old girl who appeared to have a simple cold was instead diagnosed with a heart condition and became to youngest patient in Florida to receive a special device while she awaits a heart transplant.

Jennifer Delisca never thought she'd be in the hospital for over two months.

"She was healthy, she had never been sick before," father Gean Delisca said.

"She seemed to have just a simple cold," said Eliot Rosenkrantz, professor of cardiac surgery at University of Miami Health System at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

But that common cold turned out to be something much worse.

"Barely 24 hours she actually had a cardiac arrest," Rosenkrantz said.

Doctors at Jackson Memorial Hospital said Jennifer most likely has viral cardiomyopathy, which means a virus that affects the heart muscle. She was rushed to the operating table and now has become the youngest patient in Florida to receive a Heartware-branded ventricular assist device (HVAD), a temporary solution to help pump blood into the heart.

Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital implanted a similar left ventricular assist device (LVAD), known as the Berlin Heart, on a 45-day old patient.

"She got a special machine to make her heart working," Gean Delisca said.

The little piece of technology is keeping her alive and it's helped her make some strides toward recovery as she waits for a heart transplant.

"We are very excited with the progress that Jennifer has done. She has overcome this critical life threatening situation and today she's in the stage of recovery with this left ventricular assist device," said Dr. Nicolas Brozzi, cardiac surgeon with the heart and lung transplant program at UM.

Jennifer's family never expected this to happen so they want to raise awareness about the special device and the importance of being an organ donor.

"All those who are thinking about it and considering we would like to encourage them to be organ donors. You can certainly make a difference in many people's lives," Dr. Brozzi said.

It could take up to six months for Jennifer to receive her new heart, but her family is just grateful that she's alive.

"I feel bad, you know, but thank you God she's still living," Gean Delisca said.

Jennifer also had one more thing to say to those who saved her life.

"Thank you doctors," she said.

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