Thanks to new heart, teen no longer tethered to machine


In this file photo, Angus Standridge, who used a Berlin Heart external heart pump while he awaited a heart transplant, went for a walk at the Shands Pediatric Intensive Care Unit in Gainesville. The teenager underwent surgery for a heart transplant on Monday.

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Published: Monday, April 22, 2013 at 6:44 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, April 22, 2013 at 6:44 p.m.

A 13-year-old boy received a new heart early Monday morning, after being kept alive with an external heart pump for more than a month.

Angus Standridge was “waking up nicely” on Monday afternoon, said Dr. Mark Bleiweis, Standridge’s surgeon and the director and principal cardiothoracic surgeon for the University of Florida Congenital Heart Center.

The transplant procedure started at 2 a.m. and didn’t end until 11 a.m. The call came at 6 p.m. Sunday that a donor heart had been found that matched the blood type and size of Standridge’s own heart.

“He’s doing great. He’s on some support in ICU, and we’re planning to take out the breathing tube as soon as we can,” said Dr. Gonzalo Wallis, a pediatric/transplant cardiologist with the UF Congenital Heart Center and one of Standridge’s doctors.

Standridge is the son of Marion County Fire Rescue Lt. Craig Standridge and his wife, ShandsCair helicopter flight nurse Jennifer Dye-Standridge. The family lives in Keystone Heights, northeast of Gainesville.

Wallis explained that they still don’t know why the otherwise healthy teenager developed dilated cardiomyopathy, from symptoms that were initially diagnosed as strep throat.

Wallis said doctors will study Standridge’s diseased heart now to ascertain the cause, and that it might be viral, or genetic.

While certain viruses, including those in the common cold family, can cause the heart to develop the condition — more typically in children than adults — it is very rare, Wallis said.

“We hope that in the years to come, we will learn more about what the causes are,” Bleiweis added.

Standridge’s heart had been so damaged that by March 10th, an external heart pump called the Berlin Heart was installed to help the right ventricle of his heart pump blood into his lungs, and his right ventricle pump blood throughout his body.

“The Berlin Heart basically takes over; it does all the work,” Wallis said, adding that the external, computerized device has two hose-like devices that connect to the heart.

Shands at UF was the first place in Florida to use the device, starting in 2006, and it has used about 15 of them since, according to Bleiweis. In 2011, the FDA approved the device, which takes its name from the European city where it is produced.

Standridge didn’t have any complications while on the device, and it was swiftly removed by the time the new heart was ready to be sewn into Standridge.

The total time that the donor heart is outside a body is about three hours, Bleiweis said.

“That’s the time takes donor team to get it out of the body, package it up and bring it up to me, and then I prepare it and sew it in.”

Bleiweis added that the evaluation involves preparing the arteries, looking for problems with valves, or holes in the heart.

Information on the donor cannot be disclosed.

For Wallis, successful procedures such as this should serve as a reminder to the public to donate their organs. By checking off a box when you get your driver’s license renewed, and telling your family members your wishes, “you’re giving life,” Wallis said.

“The more everyone is aware it wouldn’t be something strange.”

Standridge will spend several weeks in the hospital recovering and making sure his body doesn’t reject the new heart — which if it’s going to happen, will usually occur in the first few weeks after the transplant, Bleiweis said. Standridge will also have to monitor his heart for the rest of his life, Bleiweis added. But for the moment, the teenager is waking back up to his life.

“He’s an amazing kid. I’m pretty sure he’s going to bounce back pretty quick,” Wallis said.

Contact Kristine Crane at 338-3119 or kristine.crane@gvillesun.com.

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