The beat goes on…

By Fondation du Children,

Vincent waits for a new heart

Standing in Vincent’s hospital room you can hear his heart beat. It makes a loud sloshing noise. It’s not his real heart. That’s pretty much dead. The noise is the sound of his temporary mechanical heart. If you stand close to Vincent you can see his body twitch with each artificial beat. One hundred beats per minute, not one more, not one less.

Since September 18, 2011, Vincent has been kept alive by a mechanical heart—a Berlin heart. He celebrated Christmas in hospital; he celebrated New Year’s in hospital; he celebrated his 15th birthday in hospital.

He’s been waiting for a heart transplant operation. The donor heart might come from anywhere in the country. He is at the top of a pan-Canadian transplant list. So far, nothing.

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Help us spread the word by tweeting about Vincent using the hashtag #Aheart4Vincent.

You can also make a donation to The Children’s Cardiology Department to help Vincent and kids just like him. Click here to make a gift, and leave a message of support for Vincent.

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This doesn’t discourage his health care team who are extremely optimistic that a heart will become available – if not today, then maybe tomorrow. Children in need of heart transplants with his blood group wait, on average, six months to one year for the heart to become available.

It all began when Vincent was three months old. He caught a virus that attacked his heart. His heart has been in slow decline ever since. In doctor speak, the adenovirus caused a myocarditis infection of the heart. For many years the symptoms were mild. Vincent was followed closely in cardiology by Dr. Luc Jutras and the cardiology team.

The situation changed dramatically in the spring of 2011. Vincent was in full blown heart failure. For the first time he had to come into the intensive care unit (ICU) for treatment. Medications helped for a while, but by fall it was clear his heart was giving out. His heart was beating a mile a minute, but it didn’t have enough strength to pump the blood.

Vincent visiting with members of Simple Plan

In September, a team of medical specialists conferred and decided to put Vincent on a mechanical heart.

It didn’t go well. There were all kinds of complications: bleeding, blood clots, kidney failure. He was in and out of surgery three times. He was also emaciated. He weighed only 26 kilograms. It was touch and go a few times.

Then Vincent started to make slow and steady gains. Today, he has put on a good 20 kilos. He walks around the hospital and lifts weights in the physiotherapy room. His trusty mechanical heart is always in tow. It is the size of a small shopping cart.

He’s had some famous visitors including members of his favourite band Simple Plan, a bunch of players from the Montreal Canadiens and Anthony Calvillo of the Montreal Alouettes.

Rumour has it that The Children’s teachers used to go easy on him, but not any more. He even has homework. He keeps in touch with his friends via Facebook and a few drop in to keep him company. He’s even gone outside a few times to see his dog Max, a Doberman.

Become an organ donor

Want to help Vincent and kids just like him? Sign the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec Consent to Organ and Tissue Donation form or sign the sticker on the back of your Medicare card, available through RAMQ. Talk to your family about your decision. “I know this is a very hard decision to make, but you’ll be giving people like my son another chance at life,” says Lyne Chabot, Vincent’s mom.

Learn more

The goal is to get him as healthy as possible for when his new heart arrives. “The medical challenges are less now. We’re just waiting,” says Dr. Samara Zavalkoff, a PICU physician and one of Vincent’s primary caregivers. “What is most crucial at this time is to keep Vincent’s mood elevated and keep him motivated. He’s bored. Who can blame him? His only outing is to other floors in the hospital. No matter how much he likes the team in the PICU and we like him, we’re not his friends. His friends are at school. It isn’t a normal life for a 15-year-old.”

Looking forward to the day when the new heart arrives, Vincent admits, “It will be weird when the mechanical heart is removed. I plan to keep it as a souvenir.”

Dr. Zavalkoff looks forward to that day too. “I often think about the moment when his heart arrives. I’ve gone over in my head how we’ll tell him and his parents. I figure the moment I walk in to his room, they’ll see it on my face right away.”

According to data published by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), 2,103 solid organ transplants were performed in Canada in 2010 (11 more than 2009) thanks to 1,022 organ donors (living and deceased). There were 135 Canadians awaiting a heart transplant in 2010. Unfortunately, 22 people died while waiting.

It takes a team!

“Just about every department and service at the MCH has been involved in Vincent’s care,” says Samara Zavalkoff, PICU intensivist and one of Vincent’s primary care givers. “From the PICU to cardiology and cardiac surgery and the perfusionists. There is also nutrition, social services, psychology, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, education services, child life, music therapy, nephrology, ophthalmology and the clowns. There’s a reason I’m not leaving anyone out. Every single member of that team is crucial including, most important, Vincent and his parents. Today, the most important person is the nutritionist, tomorrow it might be social services. Take away any one member and Vincent would not be where he is today.”

Giving your consent

If you would like to donate organs or tissue, there are three ways of making your wishes known:

  • Sign the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec Consent to Organ and Tissue Donation form.
  • Sign the sticker and put it on the back of your health insurance card.
  • Have your decision recorded in the Registre des consentements au don d’organes et de tissus of the Chambre des notaires du Québec.
  • Learn more

Learn more about organ donation

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