The 16 year old had a donor heart grafted on to her own
A 16-year-old girl from Wales who made history when, as a baby, she had a donor heart grafted onto her own has made a full recovery.
Doctors say Hannah Clark‘s own heart is now in perfect working order three-and-a-half years after her ‘piggy-back’ donor heart was removed. Sir Magdi Yacoub, the pioneering surgeon who performed Hannah’s original transplant when she was two, said he was ‘surprised and delighted’.
The original operation in 1995 saved Hannah’s life because she had cardiomyopathy – a condition which made her heart double in size and risk giving out within a year. The donor heart was able to take over most of the role of pumping blood around Hannah’s body, effectively allowing her own beating heart to rest.
But 10 years later, at the age of 12, Hannah, from Mountain Ash, in Rhondda Cynon Taf, was experiencing serious health problems as a side effect of the immunosuppressant drugs she was taking to prevent rejection of the donor organ.
Hannah had developed tumours that had begun to spread and needed chemotherapy treatment. For this to work, the doctors had to reduce Hannah’s immunosuppressants. But this led to her body rejecting the donor heart.
Doctors at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital decided the only option was to disconnect the donor organ. They found Hannah’s own heart had recovered enough to cope on its own and without daily medication.
Three years on, Hannah has made a complete recovery, say her surgeons Sir Magdi and Mr Victor Tsang. Sir Magdi said: ‘We did not expect her heart to recover but when it did begin to recover we were absolutely delighted.
‘A heart that was not contracting at all now is functioning normally. It shows the possibility of recovery of the heart.’