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Kentucky Infant Gets a New Heart; He Was on List Ahead of Baby Jesse

Times Medical Writer

A 23-day-old baby in Louisville, Ky., who had waited two weeks for a heart donor, Friday joined five California infants as the world’s only living recipients of newborn heart transplants.

The baby received a plum-size heart at the University of Louisville’s Kosair Children’s Hospital in a 4 1/2-hour operation conducted by Dr. Constantine Mavroudis.

“I think he should do well, even though the next two days will be critical for him,” Mavroudis told reporters.

The infant, called “Baby Calvin” in earlier reports, was identified Friday as Robert Dean Cardin. The parents, Wendell and Patricia Cardin, dropped their anonymity Friday but declined to identify their hometown.

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Chances Decreased

The day before the operation, Mavroudis told reporters that Robert had only a short time to live without a new heart and the chances of a successful transplant decreased the longer he waited.

The unidentified donor of Robert’s heart was a week-old, brain-dead infant who arrived at the hospital from an undisclosed location.

The only other surviving newborn heart transplant recipients were operated on by Dr. Leonard Bailey at Loma Linda University Medical Center. The most recent recipient, Jesse Dean Sepulveda, known as Baby Jesse, received his heart on Tuesday from a donor from Michigan in a controversial transaction that also touched on the Louisville child.

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The Louisville medical team had been upset because the donor heart from Michigan had been sent to Loma Linda, even though Robert had been on a national list of heart transplant candidates longer than Baby Jesse.

Specified Infant

Jesse received the heart after the parents of the donor baby learned of his plight from news reports and specified him as the recipient.

Jesse and Robert, like the four other newborn heart transplant recipients, suffered from hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a birth defect that invariably is fatal without surgery.

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On Friday, a Loma Linda spokesman said Baby Jesse “continues to progress well” three days after his surgery.

“He has been removed from ventilator support and is very alert and active,” the spokesman said, adding that the infant’s heart rhythm and blood pressure are normal.

“He is warm and pink and healthy appearing” and is expected to be fed by mouth soon, he said.

Loma Linda officials also announced Friday that a 3-year-old child and an infant had been accepted by the medical center’s transplant committee as candidates for heart transplants, “pending approval of their parents.”

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‘Desperate’ Need

Bailey, Loma Linda’s heart transplant surgeon, on Thursday described the two new candidates as being in “desperate” need of heart transplants.

The Loma Linda transplant committee initially had rejected Baby Jesse as a transplant candidate, because of doubts that his unmarried parents could provide the stable home environment that is essential for good postoperative care. The committee later accepted Jesse for the operation after his paternal grandparents agreed to become his guardians.

In Louisville, the operation on Robert had required the hospital to obtain an emergency exemption from the state, because it does not have permission from the state Certificate of Need Authority to perform heart transplants.

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Kentucky Human Resources Secretary Brad Hughes said regulations allow the hospital to obtain an emergency exemption for “occasional and irregular” operations “strictly for research.”

Future Life

“This is a human experiment and it ought to be done to determine if we can offer these children a life in the future,” Mavroudis said after the operation. “If life is worth living, then it is worth going after.”

The surgeon said that infants with hypoplastic left heart syndrome were doomed and “allowed to expire at home” until Bailey performed the first such transplant at Loma Linda.

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