Two-day-old Baby Paul, the world's youngest heart transplant recipient, was progressing nicely the day after his historic surgery, while thousands of miles away a grieving Canadian couple who made it possible were taking solace in the infant's second chance at life.
As with all heart-surgery patients at Loma Linda University Medical Center, Baby Paul was listed in critical but stable condition Saturday while he remains on life-support equipment and regains alertness from the anesthesia, said Dick Schaefer, a hospital spokesman.
With his parents gingerly touching him, the groggy infant was moving his arms and legs and gradually waking.
"He appears to be making good progress," Schaefer said.
Rushed to Surgery
The red-haired boy, who had a congenital heart defect, was rushed into surgery Friday afternoon only hours after his birth by Caesarean section. In August, doctors had concluded that the fetus suffered from hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a condition which drastically reduces the amount of blood the heart can pump. Infants with the abnormality usually die a few hours or days after birth.
After the diagnosis, Baby Paul's parents, Alice Holc, 35, and Gordon Holc, 39, residents of a suburb of Vancouver, Canada, contacted Loma Linda, where several heart transplant operations on infants have been performed.
The heart donor was a baby girl named Gabrielle, who was born Monday, Thanksgiving Day in Canada.
Gabrielle's parents, whose names were withheld, knew months ago that their child would be born brain dead, but they ruled out an abortion in hopes that her organs could sustain another child's life.
"They could have aborted if they had chosen; they were given that option. It was in the first trimester," said Leigh-Anne Stradeski, a spokeswoman at University Hospital in London, Ontario, where the child was transferred after birth. "It was a very courageous thing to do, going through with the pregnancy knowing that."
Born With No Brain
Gabrielle, the couple's first child was anencephalic, born with a brain stem but not a brain. Most infants with that condition are stillborn and the rest live no longer than two weeks, Stradeski said.
"They are very pleased right now that the baby's heart can be used," Stradeski said of the parents.
Meanwhile, Baby Paul's parents are handling the ordeal "very, very well," Schaefer said. "They seem to be in good spirits."
The transplant team was led by Dr. Leonard Bailey, chief of pediatric cardiac surgery at Loma Linda, who made headlines in 1984 when he transplanted the heart of a baboon into another infant who lived almost three weeks. He performed the world's first infant heart transplant on Nov. 16, 1985. That recipient, Baby Moses, is continuing to do well, hospital officials said.
Medical experts said it would take several days before any signs that the 6-pound, 6 3/4-ounce baby was rejecting the new heart can be expected.