In the early morning hours on Wednesday, April 5, after 512 days on the transplant wait list, 8-year-old Gage Bingham became the third child in his family to receive a new heart at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford.
The youngest of five siblings, Gage had been suffering from dilated cardiomyopathy, a life-threatening form of heart failure that also affected two of his sisters. Sierra, now 17, received heart transplants at Packard Children’s in 2006 and 2015, and 13-year-old Lindsey had a heart transplant in 2013. Siblings Megan, 15, and Hunter, 10, also have markers for dilated cardiomyopathy, but so far their heart function is normal.
Gage’s transplant surgery began at 3 a.m. April 5 and lasted seven hours. Parents Jason and Stacy and all of Gage’s siblings were at the hospital to support him and await the results.
“I was quite pleased with how this transplant procedure went,” said pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon Olaf Reinhartz, MD, who led the transplant team. The surgeons did not encounter any major complications or bleeding, and the donor heart is a good match for Gage, Reinhartz said.
“The new heart started up on its own and did not need to be shocked back to life,” said pediatric cardiologist Seth Hollander, MD. “Gage did spectacularly well.”
Prior to his transplant, Gage’s heart had been supported by a pacemaker, implanted in February 2013, and a HeartWare ventricular assist device, which was placed in November 2015. The HVAD helped his failing heart pump blood and kept him healthy enough to be an excellent candidate for transplant. Gage is one of the smallest children to receive an HVAD, which is normally used for adults.
The HVAD also allowed Gage to live a fairly normal life while he awaited transplant. Unlike his sister Lindsey, who lived in the hospital during her 230-day wait for a heart, he was able to live nearby with his family and attend school. Lindsey received a different ventricular assist device called the Berlin Heart, which includes a large, bulky external pump that requires patients to remain hospitalized.
Fortunately for Gage, the HVAD is small and portable. The pump was inside his chest, and he wore a backpack to carry its batteries. Jason and Stacy were trained and certified to use the HeartWare VAD before Gage left the hospital with it, and Stacy, a registered nurse, accompanied Gage to school in case he needed help with the pump.
Some of the family had been living in Palo Alto during Gage’s wait for transplant, while his father and Megan remained at the family’s home in North Powder, Oregon. However, the Binghams were together on a rare visit to their home in Oregon on April 3, when a late-night phone call brought the news that a donor heart was available. Stacy flew to California with Gage, Lindsey and Hunter, while Jason drove overnight with Sierra and Megan. After a night spent traveling, everyone was at the hospital by Gage’s side Tuesday afternoon. Twelve hours later, at 3:00 am on April 5, they were there to walk him to his surgery. He walked hand-in-hand to the operating room with his mother while “We are the Champions” by Queen played from a phone.
Seven hours later, the family was very relieved to hear that the transplant had gone well, but after a total of eight heart surgeries for three children, they knew from experience that the next few days would be challenging.
“We know there is a stressful week ahead while we wait to see if Gage’s body will accept his new heart,” Jason said. “But we’re calm because we know that his medical team knows what they are doing. We know it’s a new chapter.”
Gage is expected to stay in the hospital for a total of two to three weeks, Hollander said. He will receive a heart biopsy one week after transplant to check for rejection. Once Gage is discharged from the hospital, the Binghams will stay nearby for another three months to accommodate frequent medical appointments and rehabilitation. After that, the family will be able to go home to Oregon, a milestone they are eagerly awaiting.
“As good as Gage was on the VAD, I don’t think he realized how much a sick heart affected the way he felt all the time,” Stacy said. “I can’t wait to see how he feels with a healthy heart.”
Discover more about the Bingham family.
- Erin Digitale
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