“Domino” heart transplant recipient dies at Columbus Children’s Hospital

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Jason Wolfe(Photo: Mike and Maria Wolfe)
Jason Wolfe(Photo: Mike and Maria Wolfe)

Last January two central Ohio babies became the youngest in the world to undergo a heart “domino” transplant. It’s a transplant where organs from one patient are transplanted to another patient, and then organs from the second patient are transplanted to a third. But on Monday one of the patients died after an extended hospital stay.

Last year surgeons made history when they performed a domino transplant at Columbus Children’s Hospital on four-month-old Jason Wolfe and Kayla Richardson who was only weeks old at the time.

Jason needed new lungs. And Kayla needed a new heart. Children’s surgical director, Mark Galantowicz, said at last year’s news conference that he felt a “domino” transplant could be possible for the babies. “I had in the back of my mind that domino would be a possibility if organs became available for baby Jason first,” Galantowicz said.

And that’s what happened. Jason received a double-lung and heart transplant. Jason’s diseased lungs were discarded, and Kayla received his healthy heart.

Following the surgeries both babies were doing relatively well. But Monday Jason died. He was 21-months-old. Jason, from Fairfield County, had been in the intensive care unit at Columbus Children’s Hospital for about three months.

Domino transplants are rarely done on infants because everything is smaller and much more complicated.

During last year’s news conference, Todd Astor, Children’s Transplant Pulmonologist, said the first six to 12 months are the riskiest for a transplanted organ to be rejected. But Astor said because the babies did not have fully developed immune systems their risk for rejection was lower.

“In the long term the biggest problem is actually chronic rejection which is a much different condition, and is actually the biggest challenge we have in treating heart and lung transplant recipients,” Astor said.

Mike and Maria Wolfe have not released the caused their son’s death.

Following her son’s transplant Maria told the media she and her husband never expected Jason to be so sick.

“You’re just in this situation. I don’t think anybody here would, you, you don’t know how you would react in this situation. We didn’t know. And you never expect yourself to be in this situation. So, and everybody handles it. And surprisingly you do handle it. You don’t know how or why, but you do,” Maria Wolfe said.

Jason’s parents declined an interview, but they said they remain strong advocates for organ and tissue donation and transplant services.

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