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3 Defects Threaten Her Life : Tiny Heart Patient Awaits Donor

Times Staff Writer

A 2-week-old infant at Fountain Valley Regional Hospital with a rare, inoperable combination of three heart defects will soon die if a donor heart is not located and a transplant operation performed, doctors said Friday.

The baby, Paige Watts, was born with only one major artery leading from the heart, instead of two. The valve in that artery is leaky and narrow, and the left side of her heart is abnormally small, according to Dr. Marc Leitner, a neonatologist at the hospital.

Leitner said an operation normally can correct the problem of having just one artery, but the combination of the defects, found in about one in every 20,000 babies, rules out surgical correction.

Paige has already suffered heart failure and is in critical need of a new heart, Leitner said, adding: “She’s being treated now medically, but the prognosis is very poor. She may last a couple of hours, a couple of days, maybe longer.”

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Operation at Loma Linda

Paige has been registered as a potential heart recipient with the United Network for Organ Sharing, based in Richmond, Va., and would undergo the operation at Loma Linda University Medical Center, Anita Rockwell, a medical center spokeswoman, said.

Rockwell pointed out that about 50% of babies nationwide who need hearts receive them. Doctors at Loma Linda have performed 20 heart transplants on infants--the first was on Baby Moses in November, 1985--and 16 have survived.

The baby’s mother, Peggy Condone-Watts, said she is optimistic that a heart will be found in time.

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“I’m hanging in there,” said Condone-Watts, 27, of Costa Mesa. Paige is the first child for herself and the baby’s father, Bruce Watts, a 30-year-old maintenance worker, she said. “It’s kind of hard just sitting there waiting. . . . People have babies born with complications at birth every day. . . . They just don’t know to donate organs.”

The baby weighed half an ounce over 5 pounds when she was born Sept. 10, but her weight has since dropped to 4 1/2 pounds, Leitner said. Doctors discovered her condition at birth, he said. “She was a bit blue, and then we heard a heart murmur.”

Leitner said that as soon as a heart is found, Paige will be rushed to Loma Linda for the operation.


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