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A Heart for Jordan Merecka: Texas Children's Hospital's First Total Artificial Heart Patient Receives the Gift of a Donor Heart

HOUSTON, Nov. 1, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On Saturday, Oct. 29, 18-year-old Jordan Merecka received a phone call that changed his life; he learned that he was a good match for a donor heart. After a 12-hour heart transplant surgery at Texas Children's Hospital, Merecka and his family are celebrating his amazing gift of a new life.


"There are no words to express our feeling of gratitude for this beautiful gift for our son," said Suzanne Merecka, Jordan's mother. "We know a special family made an extremely hard, but generous decision, and we will forever be grateful."

Merecka is a history-making teen whose life was saved in a rare 15-hour operation on May 22, when Texas Children's Hospital became the first pediatric hospital in the world to implant the SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart. After spending three months tethered to a 418-pound machine called "Big Blue" that powered his Total Artificial Heart while he was in the hospital, Merecka was able to leave the hospital and go home wearing the Freedom® portable driver. This battery-operated, 13.5-lb portable power supply allowed him to move around freely while he awaited a donor heart, which he received on Oct. 29.

"Because of all his previous surgeries, finding the right heart for Jordan was difficult," said Dr. David L.S. Morales, pediatric cardiovascular surgeon at Texas Children's Heart Center and associate professor of surgery and pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM), who surgically implanted Merecka's Total Artificial Heart, as well as his new donor heart. "As opposed to waiting in the hospital for his donor heart, the Total Artificial Heart allowed Jordan the luxury of being at home with his friends and family; the chance to rehabilitate and become stronger in preparation for his heart transplant, and most importantly, the time he needed to get a well matched donor heart. I look forward to seeing Jordan return to life as a normal teenager."

Texas Children's Hospital worked hand-in-hand with LifeGift, an organ procurement organization, to recover Jordan's heart. Jordan's donor not only saved his life, but the lives of several others through the donation of double lungs, liver, two kidneys and a pancreas.

Jordan's story
Jordan was born with multiple congenital heart defects, including dextrocardia, or a "reversed" heart. As a child, he experienced two open chest surgeries. Later, he received several surgical revisions and an implantable defibrillator. But, in September 2010, Jordan's heart began to fail and he was placed on a waiting list for a heart transplant. With medical treatment, he was able to attend school as he waited. In April 2011, his health took a turn for the worse and he was admitted to Texas Children's Hospital with heart failure symptoms and kidney insufficiency. He was in critical need of a heart transplant. Weeks passed as he waited for a donor heart and made multiple visits to the cardiovascular intensive care unit. Over the weekend of May 21, all of his organs began to fail acutely and he could not breathe on his own since his heart was so weak.  

On May 22, Jordan underwent a history-making heart surgery at Texas Children's Heart Center, where his native heart was removed and replaced by the Total Artificial Heart. The heart, pneumatically driven by precisely calibrated pulses of air and vacuum, is approved as a bridge to transplant for patients suffering from end-stage heart failure affecting both sides of the heart (biventricular failure) who might die before a donor heart becomes available.

Jordan participated in the FDA-approved Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) clinical study of the Freedom portable driver. Wearing the Freedom driver in a backpack, Jordan had mobility to leave the hospital and return to his Cypress home, a suburb of Houston.

"Our team has monitored Jordan since he was listed for a heart transplant. We will continue to follow Jordan and monitor his new heart as he transitions into adulthood," said Dr. Jeffrey Dreyer, medical director of cardiac transplantation at Texas Children's Hospital and associate professor of pediatrics (cardiology) at BCM. "Having the artificial heart allowed Jordan the time to wait for the best donor heart match."

Texas Children's Heart Center – a leader with heart-failure devices
Earlier this year, Texas Children's Hospital became the world's first pediatric hospital to complete the first and second phase of certification to implant the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart as a bridge to transplant for their patients. The 15-member training team, which included cardiologists, critical care intensivists, anesthesiologists, nursing specialists and hematologists, was led by Dr. David L.S. Morales, also director of mechanical circulation support at Texas Children's Hospital. The certification prepared the team for Jordan's life saving implantation of the Total Artificial Heart.

Since 2004, when Texas Children's Heart Center implanted the first MicroMed/DeBakey Child Ventricular Assist Device (VAD), the hospital's pediatric cardiac experts have been committed to saving the lives of patients whose hearts are failing through the use of mechanical devices, when needed. Texas Children's Hospital's heart failure program presently uses seven different types of mechanical circulatory support devices so that no matter what the cause of a child's heart failure or their size and weight, we can use the best device for that individual patient.

The devices include the Berlin Heart (the only VAD for babies and younger children), the HeartMate II for adolescents and teens, plus the RotaFlow, Tandem Heart, Thoratec Paracoporeal VAD, the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart and the HeartWare.

About Texas Children's Heart Center
Texas Children's Heart Center is a self-contained pediatric heart treatment facility within Texas Children's Hospital. Its unique design provides a single point of care including examinations, echocardiography, heart catheterization, congenital heart surgery and intensive care. This special setting enhances the continuum and delivery of care. The Heart Center sees more than 19,000 patients and performs more than 800 surgeries annually.

About Texas Children's Hospital
Texas Children's Hospital, a not-for-profit organization, is committed to creating a community of healthy children through excellence in patient care, education and research. Consistently ranked among the top children's hospitals in the nation, Texas Children's has recognized Centers of Excellence in multiple pediatric subspecialties including the Cancer and Heart Centers, and operates the largest primary pediatric care network in the country. Texas Children's is completing a $1.5 billion expansion, which includes the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute; Texas Children's Pavilion for Women, a comprehensive obstetrics/gynecology facility focusing on high-risk births; and Texas Children's Hospital West Campus, a community hospital in suburban West Houston.  For more information on Texas Children's, go to Get the latest news from Texas Children's by visiting the online newsroom and on Twitter at

Carol Wittman
832-824-2040 (direct)
713-805-5067 (cell)

SOURCE Texas Children's Hospital
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