Teenager Francesco De Santiago made medical history by becoming the first child to be discharged from a paediatric hospital with an implanted mechanical heart pump. Then he recently received a donor heart in a nine-hour transplant operation.

De Santiago was transferred to Texas Children's Heart Centre (TCHC) from south Texas after a temporary stroke. He was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition in which his heart was enlarged to more than twice normal size and could not pump blood efficiently.

On Jan 29, De Santiago, 16, received a donor heart at the children's hospital.

He will continue to reside in Houston and undergo rehabilitation and follow-up checks for three months before returning to his home in south Texas. He calls his heart “a gift” and is learning how to care for himself and his new organ.

David L.D. Morales, paediatric cardiovascular surgeon at TCHC, said: “Frank’s surgery went extremely well; he was a much better candidate for a heart transplant now than eight months ago when his heart was failing.”

He had implanted Frank's device last May and performed his recent heart transplant. “The device improved his physical health and allowed him to be discharged so he could enjoy some normal teen activity during the wait for a donor heart,” a hospital release quoted Morales as saying.

Until De Santiago was discharged in October, paediatric patients with implanted mechanical heart pump or ventricular assist device (VAD) remained in hospital, often in ICU, while awaiting a donor heart.

VAD is a device that keeps paediatric patient alive until a suitable donor heart becomes available.

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