Turkish baby suffers amid wait for a heart

Turkish baby suffers amid wait for a heart

İZMİR - Anatolia News Agency
Turkish baby suffers amid wait for a heart

26-month-old Melek Özcan has been living in the hospital for 11 months with an artificial heart machine, which is 13 times a big as her. AA photo

A 26-month-old Turkish baby has endured an excruciating 11-month wait in an İzmir hospital as she waits for a heart transplant, surviving only via an artificial heart that dwarfs her small size. Melek Özcan, who was born with cardiomyopathy, a heart muscle disease, underwent an operation to receive an artificial heart at İzmir’s Dokuz Eylül University (DEU) Hospital when she was 15 months old, but no suitable donor has yet been found, meaning the toddler has had to remain attached to the machine.

During her 11-month wait, she has seen her mother only once because she gave birth to a new baby last year in the eastern province of Diyarbakır and cannot come to the Aegean province due to financial problems. As such, the baby refers to her father and nurses as “father.”

The girl’s father, Muhsin Özcan, who is staying with his daughter in hospital, said he hoped people would display awareness about the issue of organ donation.

Speaking to Anatolia news agency, Özcan said it was not easy to take care of his daughter. “She wants to walk but she can’t since she is connected to this machine, which is 13 times as big as her.”

Professor Öztekin Oto, head of the DEU Cardiovascular Surgery Department, said Özcan has remained at the same 11 kilograms she was when she was first connected to the machine.

As such, Özcan is one of the smallest babies in Europe living with an artificial heart, Oto said. “Our goal was to find a heart as soon as possible but, unfortunately, we have not been able to find one in 11 months. We need to find a heart immediately.”

He said she was on the top of their list and that two donors had been found during the past year. “But one of them was too far away, and the timing would not be right. The other donor was not available. No heart has been donated yet in Melek’s category in Turkey.”

Smallest artifical heart

Meanwhile, Italian doctors have saved the life of a 16-month-old boy by implanting the world’s smallest artificial heart to keep the infant alive until a donor was found for a transplant, Reuters recently reported.

Doctors at Rome’s Bambino Gesu hospital said the operation was carried out last month and made public this week. The baby, whose identity has not been disclosed, was kept alive for 13 days before the transplant and is now doing well.

The baby was suffering from dilated myocardiopathy, a heart muscle disease which normally causes stretched or enlarged fibers of the heart. The disease gradually makes the heart weaker, stopping its ability to pump blood effectively.

“This is a milestone,” surgeon Antonio Amodeo said.