‘Baby Moses,’ Youngest Recipient of New Heart, Gains

Times Medical Writer

The infant who received a human heart in rare transplant surgery last week has “progressed well,” officials at Loma Linda University Medical Center announced Tuesday.

Relaxing but not lifting a tight lid of secrecy surrounding last Wednesday’s surgery, the medical center said the child was taken off a respirator Friday night and began bottle feedings on Sunday.

The medical center’s brief press release, issued “at the parents’ request,” identified the infant as “Baby Moses.” It said the child was four days old at the time of surgery, apparently making him the youngest human ever to receive a heart transplant.


“The baby has progressed well,” the infant’s surgeon, Dr. Leonard Bailey, was quoted as saying. “He seems to be a happy baby, and his parents have enjoyed holding him.”

The medical center added that “in harmony with the parents’ wishes, future condition reports would be at their discretion” and “no additional information would be available . . . at this time.”

Information still being withheld includes the age, sex and cause of death of the heart donor and details of the operation and the procurement of the donor heart.

“We want to give glory to God and thank all of those who have been praying for our baby,” the infant’s parents were quoted as saying. “The reason we requested confidentiality was to have more time alone with our baby. In time, when we feel ready, we will release more information.”

Baby Moses was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, the same condition that afflicted the infant known as Baby Fae, in whom Bailey implanted a baboon’s heart last October, when she was 12 days old. This almost invariably fatal congenital malformation prevents the side of the heart that pumps blood to the body from fully developing.

Baby Fae died 20 days after the operation from complications of what Bailey has termed a “catastrophic” decision not to match her blood type and the donor baboon’s.


One unanswered question is how a human heart for Baby Moses was located, given Bailey’s repeated assertion that he has not found “suitable” human donors in the past. Bailey said in a speech at the American Academy of Religion convention in Anaheim Sunday, four days after the transplant, that the availability of human hearts is “not there.”

“The wide publicity that surrounded the Baby Fae case has opened a lot of avenues for donors,” said Jack W. Provonsha, director of the bioethics center at Loma Linda. “But it is still a pretty rare thing to find a newborn who has brain death.”

At the Regional Organ Procurement Agency for Southern California, transplant coordinator Barbara Schulman said Tuesday that of 689 potential organ donors referred to the agency in 1985, 16 were infants under 1 month and 47 others were less than 3 years old. She said referrals of young children had increased in the past two years from previous years.

Previous baby-to-baby heart transplants have been performed in England in July, 1984, on a 10-day-old girl and in New York in 1967 on a 2 1/2-week-old boy. The British patient died 26 days later and the U.S. patient less than seven hours after surgery.