RN Jobs >> Browse Articles >> Medical Research/Science


Teen Lives 4 Months With No Heart, Leaves Hospital

Teen Lives 4 Months With No Heart, Leaves Hospital


November 19, 2008

MIAMI — D’Zhana Simmons says she felt like a “fake person” for 118 days when she had no heart beating in her chest. “But I know that I really was here,” the 14-year-old said, “and I did live without a heart.”

As she was being released Wednesday from a Miami hospital, the shy teen seemed in awe of what she’s endured. Since July, she’s had two heart transplants and survived with artificial heart pumps — but no heart — for four months between the transplants.

Last spring D’Zhana and her parents learned she had an enlarged heart that was too weak to sufficiently pump blood. They traveled from their home in Clinton, S.C. to Holtz Children’s Hospital in Miami for a heart transplant.

But her new heart didn’t work properly and could have ruptured so surgeons removed it two days later.

And they did something unusual, especially for a young patient: They replaced the heart with a pair of artificial pumping devices that kept blood flowing through her body until she could have a second transplant.

Dr. Peter Wearden, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh who works with the kind of pumps used in this case, said what the Miami medical team managed to do “is a big deal.”

“For (more than) 100 days, there was no heart in this girl’s body? That is pretty amazing,” Wearden said.

The pumps, ventricular assist devices, are typically used with a heart still in place to help the chambers circulate blood. With D’Zhana’s heart removed, doctors at Holtz Children’s Hospital crafted substitute heart chambers using a fabric and connected these to the two pumps.

Although artificial hearts have been approved for adults, none has been federally approved for use in children. In general, there are fewer options for pediatric patients. That’s because it’s rarer for them to have these life-threatening conditions, so companies don’t invest as much into technology that could help them, said Dr. Marco Ricci, director of pediatric cardiac surgery at the University of Miami.

He said this case demonstrates that doctors now have one more option.

“In the past, this situation could have been lethal,” Ricci said.

And it nearly was. During the almost four months between her two transplants, D’Zhana wasn’t able to breathe on her own half the time. She also had kidney and liver failure and gastrointestinal bleeding.

Taking a short stroll — when she felt up for it — required the help of four people, at least one of whom would steer the photocopier-sized machine that was the external part of the pumping devices.

When D’Zhana was stable enough for another operation, doctors did the second transplant on Oct. 29.

“I truly believe it’s a miracle,” said her mother, Twolla Anderson.

D’Zhana said now she’s grateful for small things: She’ll see her five siblings soon, and she can spend time outdoors.

“I’m glad I can walk without the machine,” she said, her turquoise princess top covering most of the scars on her chest. After thanking the surgeons for helping her, D’Zhana began weeping.

Doctors say she’ll be able to do most things that teens do, like attending school and going out with friends. She will be on lifelong medication to keep her body from rejecting the donated heart, and there’s a 50-50 chance she’ll need another transplant before she turns 30.

For now, though, D’Zhana is looking forward to celebrating another milestone. On Saturday, she turns 15 and plans to spend the day riding in a boat off Miami’s coast.

© YellowBrix Inc.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Account Removed

    almost 6 years ago

    Miracle....God works in many ways. This is amazing.

  • Tammy_christmas_2002_max50


    almost 6 years ago


    That is definitely a sign that God is watching over her. I am glad to hear that she is doing so wonderful!!

  • Me_work_max50


    almost 6 years ago


    Great story! God is watching over her and the surgeon that has done this for her to still be alive also all the other doctors that have helped her along her way! What a strong girl to have gone through all of this!

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 6 years ago


    God bless the surgeon and the Staff that preformed the surgery. And "GOD" has greatly shined on her. Love this story.

  • Wiyuna1_max50


    about 6 years ago



  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Account Removed

    about 6 years ago

    WOW! Great story!

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Account Removed

    about 6 years ago

    I gotta give the kid credit for all she's been thru to still have a sunny attitude about it all it shows a lot of strength.

  • 100_0100_max50


    about 6 years ago


    Amazing what the human body can endure and what the human brain can think of!

  • 1122071358_c3_af_1__max50


    about 6 years ago


    Wow, It's truly a miracle! God must have a great plan for her! I'm sure she will go far! God bless

  • Untitled-1_copy_max50


    about 6 years ago


    Preety cool story, really need to get that artificial heart out into the market for the kiddies

  • Steth_max50


    about 6 years ago


    Wow, that is truly awesome!

  • Img_0905_max50


    about 6 years ago


    How amazing!!

  • J0423100_max50


    about 6 years ago


    How awesome is that?! I hope she does well.

  • 100_1845_sq90_max50


    about 6 years ago


    OMG that is just crazy! Its amazing what the Human Body can do!

  • Img000083_max50


    about 6 years ago


    that is amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!! and to think she could actually have a normal life after going through all that! the human body and soul are truly remarkable things!!!!!!!!!!

NursingLink School Finder

Save time in your search for a nursing or healthcare degree program. Use NursingLink's School Finder to locate schools online and in your area.

Get Info

* In the event that we cannot find a program from one of our partner schools that matches your specific area of interest, we may show schools with similar or unrelated programs.