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The hearts were given to three babies born with heart defects or heart disease. All three survived, and their outcomes were compared to 17 heart transplants done at the hospital during the same time but from pediatric donors declared brain dead.
"We couldn't tell the difference," said Boucek, who's now at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital in Hollywood, Fla.
There were nine other potential cardiac-death donors at the hospital during the same period, but there wasn't a suitable recipient in the area for their hearts, the report said.
The parents of one of the infants in the study, Dan Grooms and Jill Airington-Grooms, faced the devastating news on New Year's Day 2007 that their first child, Addison, had been born with little brain function and wouldn't survive.
After they decided to remove life support, they were asked about organ donation, and quickly agreed.
"The reality was Addison was not going to live," said Jill Airington-Grooms. "As difficult as that was to hear, this opportunity provided us with a ray of hope."
Three days later, Addison was taken off a ventilator and died. Her heart was given to another Denver-area baby, 2-month-old Zachary Apmann, who was born five weeks premature with an underdeveloped heart.
His parents, Rob and Mary Ann Apmann, said they were given several options and decided to wait for a transplant. They agreed they would accept a cardiac-death donation to increase Zachary's chances.
Mary Ann Apmann said she wasn't worried that the first available heart came from a cardiac-death donor.
"At that point, Zachary was so sick. We did have him at home. But we knew it wasn't much longer," she said.
After the transplant on Jan. 4, his condition quickly improved, and his blue lips disappeared.
Now, at 21 months: "He's just a crazy little kid who loves to play and swim and throw rocks," his mother said.
The two families haven't met yet but have been in touch through letters and calls. Coincidentally, Dan Grooms said he had an older brother who died three days after he was born in the 1970s with the same heart condition as Zachary's. The Grooms now have an 8-month-old daughter, Harper.
"Addison did only live three days in this world, but because of this, she lives on," her mother said.
On the Net:
New England Journal: http://www.nejm.org/
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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