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Children’s Hospital Colorado’s Heart Institute pediatric heart transplant team performed this fall its 400th successful heart transplant on 6-month-old patient Juniper Gelrod.
At just two weeks old, Juniper was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, a disease that weakens and enlarges the two lower chambers of the heart, thus lessening the amount of blood that is pumped out of the heart.
A team of doctors from the Heart Institute operated on Juniper in April to implant a Berlin Heart, making her one of Children’s Colorado’s youngest and smallest patients to receive this assist device that does the work for her sick heart. She lived at the hospital for six months, five of those months with the Berlin Heart, before undergoing a heart transplant.
"The Heart Institute team rooted for Juniper every step of the way. They explained everything so thoroughly and included us in the decisions surrounding her care,” said Joni Schrantz, Juniper’s mom.
“We owe her life to this place and to the team. They are part of our lives, and we’ll be forever indebted to them. We’re also thankful for all the kindness and compassion we’ve received throughout this journey.”
“We got to take Juniper home eight days after she received her new heart. Walking out the doors of the hospital into the ‘real world’ after six months presented new challenges and opportunities,” said Schrantz. “We had a happy ending and a new beginning as a normal family. Sitting outside on our patio the day we got home was something so small, but so huge!”
The Heart Transplant Program is one of the largest in the nation and has seen tremendous success since it began in 1990. For the past 24 years, patients from Colorado, Kansas, Montana, New Mexico, Wyoming, Wisconsin, Utah, Arizona, Nebraska and South Dakota have received heart transplants at Children’s Colorado. The Heart Institute is a leader in heart transplantation for babies, kids and teens with excellent survival rates.
“Only 40% of babies with complex heart conditions are diagnosed before birth. This makes it critical for infants born with complex heart conditions to receive immediate support from a team of pediatric specialists with expertise managing congenital heart conditions,” said Dr. James Jaggers, cardiothoracic surgeon and co-medical director of the Heart Institute at Children’s Colorado. “No other program in our region offers the depth of expertise available through our Heart Institute, or the pediatric specialty support available at Children’s Hospital Colorado.”