A change of heart: A young Montreal Children's Hospital patient waits for a new organ

MONTREAL, April 24, 2012 /CNW Telbec/ - Since September 18, 2011, Vincent has been kept alive by a mechanical heart termed a Berlin heart. Not only did he celebrate the Christmas holidays at The Montreal Children's Hospital (MCH) of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), he also celebrated his 15th birthday there because he is patiently waiting for a transplant. However, his body cannot wait indefinitely - at any time infection could set in and his chances for a heart transplant would dwindle. Today, he, his family and care-givers are sharing his story and letting the community know how they can use social media to help Vincent find a compatible heart donor.

"Vincent has been on our radar, since he was three-months old and was infected by a virus that damaged his heart," says Dr. Samara Zavalkoff, Intensivist in Pediatric Critical Care at The Montreal Children's Hospital and one of Vincent's primary caregivers. "He was pretty stable until the spring of 2011, when he went into heart failure. Medications helped for a while, but by autumn it was clear his heart was giving out.  In September, a team of medical specialists conferred and we decided to put Vincent on a mechanical heart. This is a temporary situation, until he receives a new organ".

At the top of the list
Although Vincent is a high priority on the pan-Canadian transplant list, he still may have a significant wait.  In 2011, approximately 396 individuals received transplants and by year's end, 1,264 patients were still on the wait list for crucial donations.

These statistics, however, do not discourage his health care team. They are optimistic that a heart will become available and allow him to undergo a transplant operation.

"Children in need of heart transplants wait an average of one year for the heart to become available," says Mr. Louis Beaulieu, director general of Transplant Quebec. "We work hard to ensure that those waiting for an organ can benefit from a transplant in as timely a fashion as practicable. By increasing awareness about organ and tissue donation and transplants, we are confident that this will translate into higher numbers of donor consents, which will in turn help facilitate the work of medical teams by creating a greater number of potential donors."

Just waiting
Currently, Vincent is up and about in the MCH. He lifts weights in the physiotherapy room, studies with his tutors, but his trusty mechanical heart is always in tow. It is the size of a small shopping cart.

"The medical challenges are less now. We're just waiting," says Dr.  Zavalkoff. "What is most crucial at this time is to keep Vincent's mood elevated and keep him motivated. He's bored. This isn't a normal life for a 15 year old."

How the public can help
The public can get involved in the search for a compatible heart donor for Vincent by visiting www.childrenfoundation.com, The Montreal Children's Hopspital's Facebook page or by following us @HopitalChildren and helping us trend #AHeart4Vincent on Twitter to increase awareness about organ donation in Quebec.

Signing the the Consentement au don d'organes et de tissus de la Régie de l'assurance maladie du Québec or the sticker on the back of a Medicare card is also instrumental in helping Vincent and others like him.

"I know this is a very hard decision to make, but you'll be giving people like my son another chance at life," says Lyne, Vincent's mother.

"I often think about the moment when his heart arrives," says Dr. Zavalkoff "I've gone over in my head how I'll tell him and his parents. I figure the moment I walk in to his room, they'll see it on my face right away."

By the numbers:

  • So far, Vincent has waited 219 days for a new heart
  • Almost every department and service at the MCH has been involved in Vincent's care including, cardiology and cardiac surgery and the perfusionists, nutrition, social services, psychology, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, education services, nephrology, and ophthalmology. Even the clowns have played a role.
  • Over the last five years, over 2,000 Quebeckers received a transplant
  • There is an average of 3.4 organs donated from an individual who has died due to severe and irreversible neurological impairment (vs. cardiac death)
  • The average waiting time in 2011 to receive a kidney was 578 days
  • The average age of donors in 2011 was 49

Related links:

About The Montreal Children's Hospital

The Montreal Children's Hospital (MCH) is the pediatric teaching hospital of the McGill University Health Centre and is affiliated with McGill University. The MCH is a leader in providing a broad spectrum of highly specialized care to newborns, children, and adolescents from across Quebec. Our areas of medical expertise include programs in brain development/behaviour, cardiovascular sciences, critical care, medical genetics and oncology, tertiary medical and surgical services, and trauma care. Fully bilingual, the hospital also promotes multiculturalism and serves an increasingly diverse community in more than 50 languages. The Montreal Children's Hospital sets itself apart with its team approach to innovative patient care. Our health professionals and staff are dedicated to ensuring children and their families receive exceptional health care in a friendly and supportive environment.

About Transplant Québec

Transplant Québec has a mandate from the Minister of Health and Social Services to save lives and improve the health of persons in need of a transplant by coordinating the organ donation process, ensuring the equitable attribution of organs, supporting best clinical practices through consensus-building and the mobilization of its partners, and promoting organ donation in the society at large. Transplant Québec therefore works to ensure that the greatest possible number of Quebecers waiting for an organ can benefit from a transplant in as timely a fashion as practicable.

Image with caption: "Vincent Lambert, 15, sits in his hospital room in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) of The Montreal Children's Hospital on April 3rd, 2012. (CNW Group/THE MONTREAL CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20120424_C7464_PHOTO_EN_12550.jpg

Image with caption: "Since September 18, 2011, Vincent has been kept alive by a mechanical heart--a Berlin heart. He's been waiting and waiting for a heart transplant operation. (CNW Group/THE MONTREAL CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20120424_C7464_PHOTO_EN_12552.jpg

Image with caption: "Currently, Vincent is up and about in the MCH. He lifts weights in the physiotherapy room, studies with his tutors, but his trusty mechanical heart is always in tow. It is the size of a small shopping cart (CNW Group/THE MONTREAL CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20120424_C7464_PHOTO_EN_12554.jpg

Image with caption: Since September 18, 2011, Vincent has been kept alive by a mechanical heart--a Berlin heart. He's been waiting and waiting for a heart transplant operation. (CNW Group/THE MONTREAL CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL)
For further information:

Lisa Dutton
Manager
Public Relations and Communications
The Montreal Children's Hospital
Tel: 514-412-4400 ext. 24307
Email: lisa.dutton@muhc.mcgill.ca

Brigitte Junius
Manager, Public Relations and Communications
Transplant Québec
Tel: 514 286-1414, extension 216
514 349-0752