The heart that healed itself: Mother, 20, avoids transplant thanks to pioneering device
Mother collapsed 10 days after giving birth after suffering from a weakened heart
00:58 GMT, 5 May 2012
When Stevie Caffrey collapsed only days after giving birth, doctors warned she would die without a heart transplant.
Fearing she was too weak for such an operation, they inserted an electric pump to keep her heart beating while she waited for a donor.
But now Miss Caffrey is off the transplant list – after the device helped her heart heal itself.
Stevie Caffrey, pictured last year with Maisie and partner Andy: She no longer needs a heart implant
The 20-year-old has had the pump removed after doctors assessed she was well enough to live without it.
And she is one of the first people in the world to make a full recovery after having the implant fitted.
Miss Caffrey collapsed 10 days after giving birth to her daughter Maisie in November 2010.
Her heart and kidneys were shutting down due to a rare condition called
Doctors at Wythenshawe Hospital, Manchester, put her into a coma to save her life.
But when Stevie woke up four weeks later, she did not even recognise her boyfriend Andy Stafford – or remember giving birth to daughter Maisie.
However, as she was so fragile after her illness, the operation had virtually no chance of success.
HOW THE V.A DEVICE KEPT STEVIE ALIVE
The ventricular assist device – was inserted into the left side of Stevie's heart to help it work.
It consists of a pump, a control system, and an energy supply.
The device works by sending electric
currents to turn a rotor – mimicking the natural pulsing action of the
It receives blood from the left ventricle and delivers it to the aorta. It can keep patients alive until a donor heart is available for
In Stevie's case, it gave her heart
the time to recover and allowed the damage to heal.
So doctors decided to instead carry out the procedure to try to keep her heart going until she became stronger.
They inserted a ventricular assist system – a mechanical device that is used to partially or completely replace the function of a failing heart – into the left side of her heart. It is one of the first times the operation has been performed in Europe.
Doctors gave her a portable monitor that measured her heart rhythm – and against all the odds her heart started to heal itself.
Medics were stunned by her recovery – and told her it was one of the first times it had ever happened.
She has now been taken off the transplant list and surgeons have been able to remove the pump system because she is well enough to live without it.
Prof Nizar Yonan, transplant director at
Wythenshawe Hospital, who carried out the operation, said: 'Stevie is
an incredibly lucky young woman.'
The V.A device consists of a pump, a control system, and an energy supply. It receives blood from the left ventricle and delivers it to the aorta
Stevie, from Merseyside, said: 'I was prepared to be told I still needed a heart transplant.
'But then the doctor said he had some fantastic news – I no longer needed a transplant and I was extremely lucky,' said Stevie.