B.C. Children's Hospital gets new heart transplant program
Written by Brian Morton
Children in British Columbia will no longer have to travel out of province to get a heart transplant, Health Minister Terry Lake announced at B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver Monday.
The hospital has received approval from the Provincial Health Services Authority to establish a new Pediatric Cardiac Transplant Program.
“This has been discussed for a number of years,” Lake said. “This means they can have this life-saving surgery close to home.”
Unit now, most B.C. children requiring heart transplant had to travel out-of-province to either Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton or to The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.
The new program is expected to provide up to three transplants yearly, although some families in eastern or northern B.C. might still go to Edmonton because it’s closer.
Also there Monday was heart surgeon and the hospital’s head of pediatric cardiothoracic surgery, Dr. Sanjiv Gandhi, who since arriving over three years ago has performed B.C.’s first pediatric heart transplant, slashed surgical waiting lists and stemmed the flow of patients to other provinces for surgery.
“This is a terrific thing for the families and children of B.C.,” said Gandhi, noting two children had the surgery at Children’s in the last year because they were too ill to go to Alberta.
“When you’re in such a vulnerable position and you child is ill and not just ill but very ill, the last thing you want to do at that point in time is leave your social support structure and move to a place that you’re completely unfamiliar with.”
Aaron McArthur, whose two-year-old daughter Addison had an emergency heart transplant at Children’s in May 2011 at just four weeks of age because of an enlarged heart, said the new program will be welcomed by parents.
He said Addison couldn’t have gone to Edmonton because she was so sick, moving her was nearly impossible. “It had to be done here.”"Vab
Gandhi pushed hard for her to have her surgery in Vancouver, he added.
“This means the world to us,” said McArthur of the new program.
“Being next door to your family, being next door to your support network, being at home and sleeping in your own bed makes such a difference. And kids do better when their parents are there, so this is a great decision all around.
“She (Addison) is doing great,” noted McArthur. “If you didn’t see the scar, you wouldn’t know she had a heart transplant.”
Carmen Carriere, whose daughter Brynn McKenna had a heart transplant in Toronto in September 2001, said Brynn was born with a congenital heart defect and required an emergency transplant at six months of age.
McKenna said she’s doing fine now, adding: “It’s good that they finally have a heart transplant program (in B.C.) now.”
The B.C. Children’s Hospital Heart Centre already offers specialized pediatric cardiology services, including cardiovascular and thoracic surgery to children and adolescents with congenital heart disease and other cardiac illnesses.
Published October 22, 2013, Vancouver Sun*