Saving Lives with Transplants

Inside Children's Hospital of Michigan's Transplant Center.

Dr. Henry Walters III, chief of cardiovascular surgery at Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit, can recall a special heart transplant story in particular. After a sudden-death incident in a pool, a young girl was resuscitated and brought in, only for doctors to find she had a problem with her heart. She would need a heart transplant.

“Her heart just grew weaker and weaker and weaker,” he remembers. She was put on machines to keep her stabilized, and to help her heart pump blood until they could find a donor.

After several months, a heart came through, and doctors were able to transplant the donated heart. She then spent months recovering, going through the standard rough patches that come along with the body accepting a new organ. But she was soon able to go home.

“The beautiful thing about this story is that she grew up, finished grade school and finished middle school and high school, and she went to Michigan State University and got her undergraduate degree,” he says. “Now, she’s in graduate school.” Dr. Walters says she’s studying a medical subspecialty.

While her life no doubt has been complicated due to the transplant, “the fact of the matter is that these patients lead meaningful lives,” he says.

It’s just a sampling of the many success stories to come from the life-saving transplants being done at Children’s Hospital of Michigan Transplant Center, which has heart, kidney, liver and bone marrow programs.

“What we do is for children and children only. Our whole infrastructure, our whole culture, our whole organization is built around children and their families,” Walters says. The surgeons on staff specialize in transplanting organs in children specifically. Since no two patients are the same, the transplant care is tailored for each patient’s unique situation.

The whole environment is child-friendly and family-focused. “The child always does better within the context of their family – and we always try to promote our care of that child within the context of their family. In other words, involving their family in everything we do,” Dr. Walters says. Family is brought in for rounds in the Intensive Care Unit and made part of the team. “That is a kind of a communication that we try to foster and promote and really emphasize in our family-centered care that I think promotes the well being of a child.”

To learn more about Children’s Hospital of Michigan’s transplant center, visit ChildrensDMC.org/TransplantCenter, or call 313-745-KIDS.

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