A tween from Severn is the recipient of a rare bilateral lung-heart transplant at University of Maryland Children’s Hospital (UMCH).
Lindsey Le is 12 years old. She was visiting family in Vietnam over the summer when she become short of breath and her feet started to swell. When she got home from her trip she collapsed and was rushed to the ER and quickly admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit at UMCH.
“When Lindsey came here, her heart was literally the size of a basketball,” says Bartley Griffith, MD, the Thomas E. and Alice Marie Hales Distinguished Professor in Transplantation and professor of surgery at UMSOM, and director of the cardiac and lung transplant program at UMMC. The cause of Lindsey’s illness was a mystery.
Her heart was swollen in its fight to push blood through the lungs. “This was not an acute process that happened in Vietnam. She’s probably had the condition for years,” says Dr. Griffith.
Lindsey needed a double lung-heart transplant to save her life.
Lindsey was placed on life support called ‘extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. The system uses a pump to circulate blood through an artificial lung back into the blood stream.
She was on this life support system for 4 months, which is rare. “Just a few years ago, we wouldn’t keep a person on ECMO for more than a few days,” says K. Barry Deatrick, MD, assistant professor of surgery at UMSOM, a pediatric cardiac surgeon and director of the life support program at UMMC. During that time she was able to be up and walking and doctors believe that made a difference.
In December Lindsey received a new heart and new lungs. She went back to PICU to recover and was finally discharged in February, with a send-off from her care team and the PICU team cheering her on.
Lindsey must go through rehabilitation before going home. “It was truly a team effort to get a little girl with no hope of surviving with her original lungs and heart to a tween who is leaving the hospital, excited to return to school and cannot wait to participate in sports,” says Carissa Baker-Smith, MD, MS, MPH, assistant professor of pediatrics at UMSOM and pediatric cardiologist at UMCH.