Heart transplant surgeries for children are set to resume in Sydney

Amanda Hack was one of two mothers of young Sydney heart patients who had campaigned for a transplant service in NSW and shared her story with them The Sun Herald March. Their daughter Scarlett, now 16, was one of five transplant recipients hospitalized in 2021 after suffering two sudden cardiac arrests as a result of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (thickening of the heart muscle).

Hack said it’s clear that young patients have the best outcomes when they receive care closer to where they live.

“It means that families are kept together. My husband could work, so we had an income. We wouldn’t have had that if we had to move to Melbourne for three months,” she said.

“When you’re going through something this traumatic, being exposed to a whole new medical system and staff adds to the pressure and difficulty. With Scarlett, her Clinical Nurse Advisor is now the same one we had with the transplant.”

Between one and three NSW children have died each year for the last five years because they were too ill to be relocated or because their families could not move interstate.

When it was decided Scarlett would need a transplant, Hack was told her chances of surviving on a flight to Melbourne were “very slim”.

Hack welcomed the decision to do more transplants in Sydney, but hoped the service could be expanded soon.

Westmead Children’s Hospital has been the subject of criticism in recent months as concerns have been raised about its ability to retain highly qualified staff.

The pediatric surgeon who led heart transplants in 2021, Dr. Yishay Orr, has since left Sydney for a job in the United States.

Her departure meant the Sydney Children’s Hospital Network was left with just three cardiac surgeons, two in Westmead, who were on call every other day to cover cardiac emergencies and support the nationwide pediatric ECMO (cardiopulmonary bypass) service , and another in Randwick that offers limited cardiology services.

dr Joanne Ging, the network’s head of clinical operations, said the cinemas in question opened last week.

Ging said the transplants would be performed by Dr. Ian Nicholson, the network’s director of cardiothoracic surgery who was involved in the 2021 transplants, and Dr. Matthew Liava’a performed. She said the hospital is currently recruiting a third pediatric heart surgeon, emphasizing transplant experience.

“It’s a big team. It’s not just about the surgeons, it’s about the critical care, the anesthesiologists… we put the team together with transplants in mind,” she said.

Nicholson said providing a comprehensive pediatric transplant service in Sydney has been “a dream for many of our team”.

“It’s exciting to see this come to fruition now, not only for us as clinicians, but for the children and families who depend on our care.”

Ging said the service was set up to remind people to talk to their families about organ donation.

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Justin Scaccy

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