D’Zhana Simmons walked out of hospital Wednesday with a beating heart. That’s not unusual but what for more than 100 days the fourteen-year-old lived without a heart.
Simmons had been at Holtz Children’s Hospital since July. During that time the young teen underwent two heart transplants and lived because of an artificial heart pump beat in her chest.
In July D’Zhana arrived from Clinton, South Carolina to the Miami children’s hospital to have a heart transplant. She and her family had learned this past spring that she had an enlarged heart that was too weak to pump the blood throughout her body.
Two days after she had the heart transplant doctors found it was not working properly and had to remove it fearing it could rupture.
The doctors then did something extrodiary; they replaced the heart with a pair of artificial pumping devices to give the girl a chance to grow up hoping a second heart would come in time.
Artifical hearts have been approved for adults but not children. The reason is that children rarely have life-threatening heart conditions and companies don’t invest as much technology in research as they do adults. Most often a child in D’Zhana’s case is left to die. Because of the courage of this young girl and her team of doctors it may give other young heart patients an option to help them survive.
For four months the teen struggled to survive long enough for another heart to become available. She dealt with kidney and liver failure and gastrointestinal bleeding plus breathing problems. She was confined to her bed most of the time. To take a short walk in the hospital’s hallways required four people to help steer the machine that push blood though her body.
On October 29 D’Zhana was strong enough to go through a second heart transplant. For the rest of her life she will take medicine to fight organ rejection and there is a strong chance by the age of 30 she will need another heart. In the meantime though the teen will be able to go to school, the prom, college and have the life of a normal teenage girl.
As the Associated Press reports:
“I truly believe it’s a miracle,” said her mother, Twolla Anderson.