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2007 News Releases

One year later: Berlin Heart bridges patient back to health


Aug 28, 2007

Capital Health's first pediatric Berlin Heart recipient weaned from device

Edmonton, Canada – Melissa Mills, a 15-year-old patient at Capital Health's Stollery Children's Hospital is the first pediatric Berlin Heart recipient in Canada to be weaned from the device not because a donor heart was found, but because her own heart recovered.

"We thought the miracle was that the Berlin Heart would give us time to find the perfect donor heart for Melissa," said her mother, Sharon Mills. "We are overwhelmed that instead, the Berlin Heart gave her own heart time to rest and repair itself."

Following a sudden illness last August, Melissa, from Camrose, Alberta was transferred to the Stollery in such grave condition that her parents were told to prepare for the possibility she might not survive. Melissa required a heart transplant urgently, and continued to deteriorate while waiting for a suitable donor. Doctors at the Stollery elected to implant a Berlin Heart, the first mechanical heart designed specifically for children, hoping to give Melissa time to recover while she continued to wait for a heart.

Within a few months, Melissa's overall condition had improved dramatically, and her heart muscle had regained much of its strength. After 146 days on the Berlin Heart, Melissa underwent surgery to have the device removed.

"We are just beginning to understand all the applications for the Berlin Heart," said Dr. Ivan Rebeyka, Clinical Leader of the Berlin Heart program, Head of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery for Capital Health, and Associate Clinical Professor, Surgery and Pediatrics, University of Alberta. "We are thrilled with Melissa's outcome and excited by what this means for future patients."

Last fall, the Stollery Children's Hospital became North America's first training and support centre for the world's first mechanical heart designed for children. To date, five patients have received Berlin Hearts at the Stollery Children's Hospital.

Under the agreement, Stollery physicians provide training and advice to other children's hospitals that use or plan to use the Berlin Heart across Canada and the Western United States. To date, the Stollery Children's Hospital Berlin Heart team has provided advice and training to physicians and staff from children's hospitals in Buenos Aires, Rotterdam, Ann Arbor, Boston, Houston, Stanford University, Wisconsin, Montreal, Detroit and Seattle.

"The Berlin Heart program will complement the full range of services available at the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute when it opens in 2008," said Dr. Rebeyka. 


About Capital Health

Capital Health in Edmonton is Canada's largest health region and is affiliated with the University of Alberta, providing integrated health services to one million residents in Edmonton and the surrounding area. Capital Health acts as a referral centre to central and northern Alberta, the North and the Prairies, providing specialized services such as trauma and burn treatment, organ transplants and high-risk obstetrics.



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