Berlin Heart machine saves children with heart failure waiting for a transplant
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Dr. Mark Turrentine is a man known for putting the tiniest hearts back together as a pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon. He has a special relationship with one of his smallest patients.
Junior Aylor’s mother, Mallory Aylor, said, “Dr. T has a very special place in our hearts. Junior and Dr. Turrentine have a very special bond.”
Junior is only 2-years-old and is in heart failure. He is largely alive because of Dr. Mark Turrentine, the surgeon that implanted his Berlin Heart after his transplanted heart started to fail. He received that heart as a baby due to congenital heart defects.
“It’s a ventricular assist device that’s called a berlin heart,” Aylor said. “It works as an external pumping mechanism to serve as his heart to help perfuse the rest of his organs and his body.”
He lives as normal of a life as possible for a toddler tied to a machine 24 hours a day. He can go on walks during the day but can only be unplugged for about 30 minutes.
“He is a typical two-and-a-half-year-old,” Aylor said. “He is very busy and he is unfortunately tied to the bed with all of the lines.”
Junior would likely not live long enough without the Berlin Heart to get another heart transplant.
“There really wasn’t an [another] option,” explained Dr. Turrentine. “Children would be supported on medication and they may or may not make it to transplant.”
“It was heartbreaking. But with the support of family and our faith, it really has helped us carry through and keep us strong because you just never know how long your stay will be here when you are waiting for a heart transplant,” Aylor said. “It could be 6 weeks it could be 6 months.”
These devices received FDA approval mainly because of Dr. Turrentine; he was the first doctor in Indiana and the second in North America to use a Berlin Heart.
“The FDA gave us emergency use authorization with a 2-hour turnaround time. That was the first implant of an infant in North America and before too long there was such a demand for it that led to the FDA approving a trial,” Dr. Turrentine said.
After that clinical trial, the machine received full approval from the FDA in 2011; a Riley Children’s Hospital patient named Bailey Hunsberger testified to help get it approved.
Riley Children’s Hospital is the only hospital in Indiana to use this machine; there are about 20 patients in the history of the hospital to ever use this device.