The Importance of Heart Valves

Recently I had the amazing opportunity to work directly with a family and Organ Procurement Organization to help coordinate a possible donation from a baby whose life is expected to be brief. One of the potential donations being discussed was the donation of heart valves. As we were discussing the various possibilities and logistics, the coordinator from the OPO looked at one of the family members and asked if they knew the importance of heart valve donation. The coordinator went on to explain that when a child needs a heart valve replaced they can either get an artificial /mechanical heart valve, a human heart valve, or whole heart transplant to fix the condition. But, if the child receives an artificial /mechanical heart valve, they will need to get it replaced several times as they grow because the heart valve will not grow with them. Obviously, having multiple surgeries as you grow up would be very difficult and opens up the potential for complications. If the child gets a human heart valve as a transplant, they will not need multiple replacements because the valve will grow with them!! Which is pretty amazing. Now, if the child ends up getting a whole heart transplant, they will need to be on immunosuppressants to ensure the body does not reject the heart. These immunosuppressents come with various negative side effects. Receiving a human heart valve instead would alleviate the need for the immunosuppressants, and eliminates the side effects associated with them.
These tiny, yet precious gifts, are so very, very important. Not only can they ultimately save a life, but they also allow the recipient to have a better quality of life. What an amazing blessing for that child and their family.
Thank you to all those who have given in the face of loss and allowed another person’s child to not only have life, but the opportunity for a quality life!

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