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Mum praises hospital staff after daughter's life is saved with 'miracle' mechanical heart op

Chloe Narbonne was given the mechanical organ by Royal Brompton and Harefied NHS Trust medics as she waited to have a real heart transplant

Chloe with André Simon, director of transplantation, and Rachel Hards, artificial heart nurse specialist at Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, in the Chelsea hospital's paediatric intensive care unit, where she recovered(Image: UGC TMS)

The family of the first child in Britain to receive an artificial heart has thanked staff and medics at Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Trust .

Chloe Narbonne was fitted with the mechanical device in a nine hour operation which involved 30 staff at Royal Brompton in Chelsea nearly 12 months ago.

It meant the 13-year-old, who had suffered heart failure and a stroke, could stay alive until a human heart became available a few weeks later.

Mum Fabienne Narbonne said it was a miracle, saying without an artificial heart her daughter would be dead.

In an interview with The Guardian , the teen, who is the youngest patient in Britain to undergo the procedure, said: “I guess the artificial heart was my lifesaver, it’s what kept me alive until I got another heart. What I’ve been through is life-changing.”

Chloe, from Worcester, was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart becomes enlarged and cannot pump blood efficiently, at the age of four.

She managed her condition with medication until 11, when her heart failed and she was placed on the transplant waiting list.

But she suffered a stroke while waiting for a transplant and, when that transplant finally came, it failed and left her close to death.

A total artificial heart was the only option to keep Chloe alive until another heart could be transplanted, but had never been used in such a young patient before anywhere in Europe.

Mr André Simon, director of transplantation at Royal Brompton’s sister hospital Harefield Hospital, performed the operation on Chloe in May 2016.

She had been transferred to Royal Brompton while on a machine which externally delivers oxygen to a patient, and the operation was performed at the Sydney Street hospital because its dedicated paediatric intensive care unit, which specialises in patients with heart and lung conditions, could provide vital round the clock care following Chloe’s operation.

The transplant and mechanical support team from Harefield Hospital , including specialist operating theatre nurses and anaesthetists, and all the equipment and surgical instruments required to transplant the total artificial heart, was transferred from Harefield to Royal Brompton, while Mr Simon flew back early from a conference in the US to operate.

Dr Margarita Burmester, paediatric intensive care consultant, said: “The teamwork was fantastic. Chloe undoubtedly owes her life to that teamwork,”.

Chloe, who said she feels she is slowly returning to her normal self, said: “They’ve been so wonderful, you can’t thank them enough, I love it when I go back to the hospitals and see everyone.”

The teen’s mother was in awe of the medics: “How they saved Chloe should be recognised for what it is – a miracle. Without the artificial heart she would be dead. It kept her alive for those crucial few weeks. By the time she got it she had run out of options.”

And she reserved special praise for another set of people who helped save her daughter's life: “We owe eternal thanks to the organ donors and their families.

“We cannot thank them enough for offering Chloe a second chance at life, no words can explain how it feels and we have nothing but respect and gratitude for their gift of life.”

The Trust is currently fighting NHS plans to axe congenital heart disease services at Chelsea hospital .

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