Columbus Babies Youngest In World To Have ‘Domino’ Transplant

Four-month-old Jason Wolfe from Fairfield County was born in September as a healthy baby boy. But not long thereafter, his parents, Michael and Maria Wolfe, noticed something was not right. Jason was not eating well, he was having a hard time breathing, and had a bluish tint to his body. The baby was taken to Children’s where he was diagnosed with primary pulmonary hypertension and placed on a lung transplant list. Children’s Transplant Pulmonologist, Todd Astor, said this was Jason’s only hope for survival.

“It happened so quickly that just within a couple of days baby Jason was in our intensive care unit on maximum medical and mechanical therapy. Very early on we realized that it was essential that we list baby Jason for a heart lung transplantation as we could forsee that this would be the only treatment that would be successful,” Astor said.

Astor said transplanting both the heart and lungs together as a connected unit lowers the risk for complications related to the airways.

Just down the hall from Jason was Kayla Richardson, who was only weeks old. Kayla needed a new heart. She was born in November with a rare heart irregularity that caused the right side of her heart to not fully develop. Her parents, Robert Richardson and Rebecca Lovins, brought Kayla to Children’s in December where she eventually suffered cardiac arrest. She was placed on the heart transplant list January fourth.

Children’s surgical director, Mark Galantowicz, said the babies’ situation was dire, and he felt that a domino transplant could be possible.

“I had in the back of my mind that domino would be a possibility if organs became available for baby Jason first. And if it was clear that Kayla’s situation was deteriorating to the point that we were running out of time. So that the opportunity and the possibility and the appropriateness of it came together that day.”

On Friday, January 13th, heart and lungs became available for Jason. Surgeons began preparing for surgery the next day. Jason received a combined heart and double lung transplant from an anonymous out-of-state donor. In turn, doctors took Jason’s healthy heart and transplanted it to Kayla.

The surgeries, which took about 12 hours to complete, went smoothly.

All four parents said they owe their children’s lives to the staff at Children’s Hospital. Jason’s father, Michael Wolfe, who said he thought he would lose his son, said he cherishes every day with him.

“To see Jason two-and-a-half weeks after transplant, he’s starting to look like a normal baby again. He’s getting his personality back, he’s laughing, he’s smiling. He’s taking a bottle, and it’s just absolutely amazing.”

Kayla’s mother, Rebecca Lovins, became very emotional when speaking about her daughter’s transplant.

“I haven’t really tried to think about it. I try to keep my head up high and not put myself down because I’m the type of person that once I get myself down, I can’t get myself back up. And when I look at her I have to keep myself up.”

Both babies are still in the cardiac intensive care unit, but doctors say they are very close to being in a regular room soon.

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