(03/19/14) - A device that has helped thousands of adults - a simple pump - is buying precious time for children waiting for heart transplants.
It doesn't look like much, but a day out like this is big for 11-year-old Jacque Fair. Last summer, Jacque found out she was in heart failure and needed a transplant.
"It was a surprise," Jacque says.
To her mother, Katrina, it was stunning, "I had to step out of the room to be honest with you. It was a little, it was a little much to take."
While she waits for a transplant, Jacque is wearing the Heartware pump.
"They used to be bigger, bulkier, so only adults could receive them," says Mary Mehegan, an RN VAD coordinator at St. Louis Children's Hospital.
The pump is implanted in the heart and attaches to a battery pack outside the body. It takes blood out of the left ventricle and pumps it into the aorta, helping the heart function when it is too weak to do so on its own.
The device is small enough to be used in kids and it's portable, Mehegan says, so patients don't have to stay in the hospital, "it's a beautiful thing to let a child go home while they're still in heart failure."
Jacque says the device has given her freedom, "if I wasn't on here, I'd probably be in the hospital, not allowed to do anything, taped up to the wall."
She is looking forward to her transplant, but says she's happy she can still be a kid while she waits.
Children have to weigh at least 65 pounds to get the Heartware pump. It is actually a left ventricular assist device, commonly called an L-VAD. It is only recently being used for children. Fewer than 10 children's hospitals across the country are using them.
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