Giving the Gift of Life

The Heart Failure, VAD, and Transplant Program successfully performs the first pediatric heart transplant in Central Texas

Written by: Ashley Lawrence

On Saturday, October 3, the Heart Failure, VAD, and Transplant Program, a specialty program within the Texas Center for Pediatric and Congenital Heart Disease, successfully performed its first pediatric heart transplant at Dell Children’s Medical Center, providing 18-year-old Gerardo Ramirez, Jr. with a lifesaving heart transplant just in time for his mother, Myrna Arguello’s, birthday.

On Wednesday, December 23, Gerardo walked out of Dell Children’s Medical Center after being discharged from his 144-day stay just in time to celebrate the holidays at home with his immediate family.

“Giving the gift of [an] organ or tissue is such a transformational gift, and this lifesaving surgery would not have been possible without the generous and courageous family who chose to donate life,” says Dr. Charles Fraser, Chief of Pediatric and Congenital Heart Surgery for the Texas Center for Pediatric and Congenital Heart Disease.

First diagnosed with a heart condition in 2017, Gerardo had been in end-stage heart failure for almost a year before receiving his heart transplant and suffered from both hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a disease in which the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick, making it harder for the heart to pump blood, and Ebstein’s anomaly, a rare congenital heart defect in which the tricuspid valve develops in a way that causes blood to leak backward through the valve and into the right atrium. He was admitted to Dell Children’s in August, shortly after the announcing of the opening of the Heart Failure, VAD, and Transplant Program, the first pediatric heart transplant program in Central Texas.

Led by Medical Director Chesney Castleberry, MD, and Surgical Director Carlos Mery, MD, the Heart Failure, VAD, and Transplant Program is a subspecialty program within the Texas Center for Pediatric and Congenital Heart Disease, the clinical partnership between UT Health Austin and Dell Children’s Medical Center. The heart transplant team also includes UT Health Austin nationally recognized pediatric heart surgeons, Charles Fraser, Jr., MD, and Ziv Beckerman, MD.

“The pediatric heart transplant program would not be possible without the clinical partnership between Dell Children’s and UT Health Austin, which has allowed us to recruit clinical leaders for complex surgeries, research, and education, bringing together highly specialized providers in a team-based system of care,” says Christopher M. Born, President of Dell Children’s. “This milestone at Dell Children’s is a testament to the dedicated transplant team that includes surgeons, pediatricians, anesthesiologists, transplant coordinators, nurses, pharmacists, social workers, therapists, and psychologists, all leaders in this field.”

The Heart Failure, VAD, and Transplant Program projects anywhere between two and six transplants will be completed within the first year of practice with the goal of growing the practice to complete as many as 20 transplants in a given year, which is on par with large transplant centers.

To learn more about the Heart Failure, VAD, and Transplant Program, visit here.

About the Partnership Between UT Health Austin and Dell Children’s Medical Center

The collaboration between UT Health Austin and Dell Children’s Medical Center brings together medical professionals, medical school learners, and researchers who are all part of the integrated mission of transforming healthcare and redesigning the academic health environment to better serve society. This collaboration allows highly specialized providers who are at the forefront of the latest research, diagnostic, and technological developments to build an integrated system of care that is a collaborative resource for clinicians and their patients.

About UT Health Austin

UT Health Austin is the clinical practice of the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin. We collaborate with our colleagues at the Dell Medical School and The University of Texas at Austin to utilize the latest research, diagnostic, and treatment techniques, allowing us to provide patients with an unparalleled quality of care. Our experienced healthcare professionals deliver personalized, whole-person care of uncompromising quality and treat each patient as an individual with unique circumstances, priorities, and beliefs. Working directly with you, your care team creates an individualized care plan to help you reach the goals that matter most to you — in the care room and beyond. For more information, call us at 1-833-UT-CARES or request an appointment here.