A 2-year-old toddler who survived nearly 450 days with a mechanical heart will finally thank a family for agreeing to an organ donation in the toughest of times.
“When I got the call, my daughter started screaming with joy: ‘Eliam has a heart!’ […] I think I fell to my knees on the floor,” says the boy’s father, Jimmy Aselin, with emotion.
Balloons, stuffed animals, mascots and tears of joy, the atmosphere was festive on Monday morning in the intensive care unit of the CHU Sainte-Justine, where a small celebration was organized to commemorate Éliam, 2 years old.
Huddled in a high chair on wheels, his eyes heavy from his sleep, the floor staff who have worked with him for the past 15 months seem to have unanimously accepted him.
The toddler, who spent most of his life between four sanitized walls, received his new heart two weeks ago. The surgery lasted 13 hours.
In the next few days, the parents will bring him home.
“The first thing I want to do is take him outside. Put him on the lawn,” Dad says, his eyes shining with joy.
The baby was born in July 2020 with a congenital atrioventricular block that left the heart beating only 45 beats per minute, instead of the normal 140 to 160 beats for newborns.
His illness, in the first 48 hours of his life, led him under the knife for the first time to install a tiny pacemaker. Since then, activities follow each other.
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“The wires are gone. I’m going to find it weird not being attached to a machine anymore,” says his mother, Sabrina Mercier LaPlante.
Every day is a risk
At 443 days connected to Berlin’s heart, he was the Quebec patient who spent the most time on the mechanical pump, which circulates blood instead of organs.
A record his parents hoped would never be broken. Because every day on the pump he is at risk of complications that can arise without warning.
“We are very grateful to this family for agreeing to organ donation. Eliam can go home. We have been waiting for this for so long,” she said, struggling to finish her sentence, son in her arms.
“Despite their tragedy, they were able to reclaim life. That saved Eliam […] He almost didn’t make it out of intensive care,” continues Dad, his eyes moist.
Her mother had previously expressed hope that her biggest fear was that she would not go through with the transplant Register. “It wasn’t easy, but it ended well. The whole family can wake up in the morning together … we can appreciate all the little moments in life,” she breathes.
Photo by Chantal Poirier
Pediatric cardiologist Nassiba Alami-Larouzzi, director of the transplant program at Saint-Justin.
The frenzy was palpable Monday to pediatric cardiologist Nassiba Alami-Larouzzi, director of the transplant program at Saint-Justine.
“The wait for the organ is getting longer. […] No matter how well we set up teams, if we don’t have the contribution of donor families, we cannot save lives. These actions touch us a lot,” he thanked the families.
Because deaths among children are low and those who meet the criteria to become donors are rare.
Obviously, Elium should continue regular follow-ups at Saint-Justin, which will gradually fade over time.
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