Boy, 13, uses Berlin Heart as he awaits transplant

Angus Standridge, 13, who is supported by a Berlin Heart external heart pump while he awaits a heart transplant, goes for a walk at the Shands Pediatric Intensive Care Unit in Gainesville. (Courtesy photo)

Published: Monday, April 1, 2013 at 1:11 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, April 1, 2013 at 2:25 p.m.

Two first responders based in Marion County have been keeping vigil since March 10 at Shands at the University of Florida in Gainesville while their 13-year-old son is being kept alive by a Berlin external heart pump as he awaits a heart transplant.


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Marion County Fire Rescue Lt. Craig Standridge and his wife, ShandsCair helicopter flight nurse Jennifer Dye-Standridge, are keeping close tabs on Angus Nelson Standridge in the Shands Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.

“I wasn’t surprised and I wasn’t scared when the surgeon told me I needed a transplant,” Angus said on Friday, as he also was surrounded by his maternal grandmother Linda Williams, brothers Flynt, 9, and Seth, 7, and sister Savanna, 11. The family lives in Keystone Heights, northeast of Gainesville.

“If the surgeons here can open me up and keep me alive with the Berlin Heart, I trust them completely,” Angus said.

The youngster pulled back his bed cover to reveal one of the two hand-sized components of the heart, to which he was connected via open heart surgery. The patient’s own heart is left in place during the use of the Berlin Heart, which is described as a “bridge to transplant” device. Angus is currently considered “1A,” or top priority, on the national heart transplant recipient list.

Angus was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy as a result of viruses, according to Craig Standridge, 42, who is stationed at Marion County Fire Rescue Station No. 19 in Anthony.

“Angus had been ill with a sore throat and when we took him to the doctor it was diagnosed as strep throat. Three days later, on March 2, when he was still sick and having trouble breathing, we went to the Pediatric After Hours care unit at Shands. Within three hours Angus was ‘crashing.’ A doctor followed up on his blood pressure being low but his heart rate fast and the diagnosis followed. One doctor told us every virus Angus ever had was attacking his heart, and his heart was about twice its normal size,” Standridge said. “Angus’ condition came as a complete shock.”

According to information supplied by Karen Chavez, a spokeswoman with Shands, the Berlin Heart external pump is designed for pediatric patients in severe heart failure. The ventricular assist device is implanted through open heart surgery and takes over the job of pumping blood through the body, in many cases allowing patients to stabilize and get stronger and healthier while they wait for a donor heart. In 2006, Shands Hospital for Children was the first in Florida to use the device, which was implanted for an 8-year-old with cardiomyopathy. The boy later had a heart transplant and is doing well today. As of December 2012, Shands has implanted 14 of the devices. The smallest and youngest patient treated there using the Berlin Heart, named after the city in Germany where it is produced, was 7 weeks old.

When Angus speaks about the surgeon who met with him before his 10-hour operation to be attached to the Berlin Heart, he flashes a contagious smile. “He looked like a surgeon,” he said.

Angus and Flynt’s mother, Michelle Standridge, died in 2009 at age 36 from breast cancer. Craig Standridge later married Jennifer Dye, who had two children, Savanna and Seth. The two have since adopted each other’s children.

Standridge said his son’s diagnosis was stunning because Angus had always been a very active boy who liked jumping on the trampoline and playing football and wrestling with his siblings.

“I like to wrestle with Seth because he’s light, about 50 pounds, and easy to toss,” Angus said with a laugh.

As they continue their vigil at Angus’ side, Standridge and his wife both said they have received a lot of support from coworkers, such as fellow MCFR firefighters filling in for him while he stays with his son.

Station 19 firefighter/paramedic Brad Bahnsen said he has known Standridge for about four years.

“A lieutenant from another station volunteered to cover Easter because he knew it might be hard to find someone,” Bahnsen said.

J.D. Clarke, also with Station 19, has known Standridge for more than 25 years.

“Craig is a fireman, not just a firefighter doing a job,” Clarke said.

And the brotherhood extends to support from others as well.

“Tom Hand of Gainesville Fire Rescue has made it his personal mission to keep tabs on us. A GFR truck has been by almost every day we’ve been here to check on us and bring food,” Standridge said.

Dye-Standridge, who was based at MCFR Station No. 30 at Spruce Creek, has recently been reassigned to duty at Shands in Gainesville to help her in staying close to Angus.

“The helicopter crew got permission to fly me up here from Ocala the night of Angus’ diagnosis. It was the longest 22 minutes of my life,” she said.

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