Girl is first British child to receive 'miracle' artificial heart

Henry Bodkin

A 13-year-old girl has made history by becoming the first British child to receive an artificial heart.

Chloe Narbonne, who was 12 at the time, had the device successfully installed during a nine-hour operation at London’s Royal Brompton Hospital after a transplant heart failed.

At that point her parents and medical team had the choice of keeping the Worcester resident on life-support, maybe indefinitely, while waiting for a second transplant, or performing the “extremely risky” surgery.

Without the artificial heart she would be dead

Fabienne Narbonne

After the decision was made to proceed, Chloe became the first person in the world to be transferred between hospitals with her chest open while on a life-supporting extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine.

With the 50cc total artificial heart successfully installed, doctors waited several weeks for the patient's health to stabilise before transplanting a second donor heart.

Parents Fabienne and Todd Narbonne are now campaigning to change the law on organ donation in England to an opt-out system, such as Wales adopted in 2015, where people must specifically refuse consent for their organs to be retrieved.

Chloe said her experience had been “life-changing”.

“I feel well, like my normal self, but not quite my normal self, not after what I’ve been through,” she told the Guardian.

“I guess the artificial heart was my lifesaver.”

Chloe was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy when she was four weeks old, a condition where the heart becomes enlarged and cannot pump blood properly.

At the age of 11 she had a stroke while waiting for a new heart, and was left close to death when her eventual transplant failed to work.

Heart surgeon Andre Simon was forced to rebuild parts of her atrium, or upper chamber had been removed during the failed transplant.

Mrs Narbonne said: “How they saved Chloe should be recognised for what it is: miracle.

“Without the artificial heart she would be dead.”

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