United Kingdom is believed to have its first heart transplant patient whose donor heart was removed and the patient's own heart revived.
The pioneering operation was performed on the school girl, Hannah Clark, 12, of Mountain Ash, South Wales on 20 February after her body rejected her 10-yeat-old "piggy-back" heart, the nickname for the complicated procedure whereby the original heart is left in place with the new one surgically attached to it.
AdvertisementThe operation was performed by surgeons under the advice of the heart specialist Sir Magdi Yacoub, who was formerly retired. The professor had performed Hannah's original heart transplant operation ten years before.
The operation was then performed because Hannah had been diagnosed with cardiomyopathy. The donor heart was assumed to have been working until last November, when a routine visit to a cardiolog ist revealed that her body was rejecting it.
Surgeons at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London were at first hesitant to remove the donor heart and reconnect the dormant one because it had never been done before. However some weeks later the transplant team agreed to perform this life-saving operation and, at the request of Mr and Mrs Clark, Sir Magdi provided surgeons with his vast expertise.
Although the surgery was expected to take at least eight hours, Hannah was out of the operation theatre within four hours. Recovery time also was expected to last anywhere from a few weeks to perhaps months but 12 year old Hannah recovered so well that she was sent home within five days of the surgery.
Her road to recovery was so fast that according to Mrs Clark "Hannah is just enjoying her life and is looking forward to going back to Mountain Ash comprehensive school after Easter.
"It has been like a breath of fresh air for her. She is doing a lot more by herself now and she is making me redundant."
One major benefit of the operation has been that Hannah no longer needs to take the strong anti- rejection drugs she was on while she had the donor heart.
She had also battled lymph cancer for many years prior to the operation, however after undergoing a successful course of chemotherapy in January; she is in remission at present.
Amazingly, Hannah is now feeling well enough to contemplate taking part in the Transplant Games later this year, at which she hopes to compete in swimming, long jump and table tennis.
A spokesman for the cardiac team at Great Street Ormond Hospital said: "We believe that this combination of circumstances is the first for children or adults in the UK," he said.