Tiernee Gonzalez received a successful heart transplant on December 28, 2013.
21-Year-Old Leaves Hospital with a Kidney Saved by the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart
“I was completely shocked,” recalls Tiernee Gonzalez of Ohio. “I found out that it wasn’t the end, that I had another chance at life.
TUCSON, Ariz. – April 22, 2014 – When Tiernee Allegra Gonzalez, 21, was discharged from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center on Monday, April 14, 2014, she left with a new human heart and, as physicians had hoped, a fully recovered kidney.
The heart transplant and the revitalized kidney were made possible by Dr. David Morales, chief of pediatric cardiothoracic surgery at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and his use of the SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart.
When Gonzalez was a young girl, cancer claimed one of her kidneys, and the chemotherapy to fight the disease weakened her heart.
In August 2006, when Gonzalez was 12, she received a heart transplant. However, over the next few years her body rejected it and her health declined. By the fall of 2012 she progressed to renal (kidney) failure that was expected to require lifelong dialysis. Gonzalez also needed a second heart transplant in order to survive.
Her doctors didn’t think she would live long enough to get another heart transplant, so they implanted the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart on Nov. 9, 2012. This was the first SynCardia Total Artificial Heart implant of a female patient at a pediatric hospital.
“I was completely shocked,” Gonzalez recalls. “I found out that it wasn’t the end, that I had another chance at life.”
The SynCardia Heart is the world's first and only FDA, Health Canada and CE approved Total Artificial Heart. It pumps up to 9.5 liters of blood per minute through each ventricle. Similar to a heart transplant, the Total Artificial Heart is the only approved device in the world that eliminates the symptoms and source of end-stage biventricular failure.
“When I came out of surgery, my family instantly noticed a difference,” Gonzalez says. “They told me my cheeks and lips were pink and rosy. When I woke up I noticed that it was much easier to breathe.”
Blood that has circulated through the body returns to the right side of the heart through the central venous system. If the heart’s right ventricle is unable to pump its share of blood, central venous pressure (CVP) increases. This rise in pressure leads to the decline of vital organs, including kidneys and the liver.
By implanting the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart, “you get not only great cardiac output, “ explains Dr. Morales, “but, unique to the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart, a normalized if not low central venous pressure. Because of this I expected Tiernee’s kidney to recover.”
One month prior to the SynCardia Heart implant and for two months following the implant, Gonzalez did not produce urine, and doctors planned on surgically implanting a permanent catheter for dialysis.
“We had been so hopeful that the kidney function would return,” Dr. Morales recalls, “but after two months of no urine, we finally scheduled her for permanent dialysis access surgery the day after New Year’s Day.”
On New Year’s Day Tiernee began making urine. “The SynCardia Heart really helped the rest of my body to recover,” Gonzalez says.
In March 2013 she was fitted with the Freedom® portable driver. The wearable 13.5-pound driver powers the SynCardia Heart and gives clinically stable patients virtually unlimited mobility. Gonzalez was able to visit a coffee shop near the hospital and exercised nearly daily so she would become stronger for her heart transplant.
She also demonstrated her SynCardia Heart and Freedom portable driver to a class of captivated seventh graders at Cincinnati Country Day School in Indian Hill, Ohio. “I was glad they were able to see that being sick is not weird or crippling,” she says.
She left the hospital without a human heart on May 21, 2013. At her Hamilton, Ohio home, her 4-year-old brother liked to listen to the SynCardia Heart pumping in her chest, while her 9-year-old brother took pride in learning how to switch out the lithium ion batteries in the Freedom.
Tiernee was transplanted with a human donor heart on Dec. 28, 2013.
Gonzalez pledges to stay healthy and aims to go to college to become a criminal justice and civil rights attorney. She says she also “wants to do some kind of charity work because I’ve been blessed so much.”
About SynCardia Systems, LLC
SynCardia Systems, LLC in Tucson, Ariz., is the privately-held manufacturer of the world's first and only FDA, Health Canada and CE approved Total Artificial Heart. For people suffering from end-stage heart failure affecting both sides of the heart (biventricular failure), the SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart is used as a bridge to transplant, helping them survive until a matching donor heart becomes available. SynCardia also manufactures the Freedom® portable driver, which powers the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart and allows clinically stable patients to be discharged from the hospital to enjoy life at home while they wait for a heart transplant.
Janelle Drumwright, firstname.lastname@example.org, (520) 547-7463