Children's Hospital Colorado

Children’s Colorado Celebrates 500 Lifesaving Heart Transplants

Children's Hospital Colorado | February 13, 2022
Side by side photos of a little girl at 7 months old and today at nearly 8 years old.

Juniper, shown in 2014 and 2022, is one of the many heart recipients who received their transplant at the Heart Institute.

The Heart Institute at Children’s Hospital Colorado performed its 500th pediatric heart transplant, a milestone that only a few centers across the country have reached. This benchmark is a tribute to the many families who have entrusted Children’s Colorado with their care and the multidisciplinary team of caregivers who are committed to ensuring the best possible outcomes.

Treating complex heart transplant cases others turn down

“From our first transplant patient more than 30 years ago to our 500th this year and every patient in between, the entire team at the Heart Institute has been honored to help so many families,” said Melanie Everitt, MD, cardiologist and Medical Director of the Heart Transplant Program at Children’s Colorado. “This milestone speaks to the breadth and depth of our team’s experience, which allows us to treat the most complex cases that other hospitals may turn down, while still achieving excellent outcomes.”

Heart transplant outcomes above the national average

According to national comparison data from the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients, patient survival outcomes at the Heart Institute at Children’s Colorado after heart transplant are consistently better than the national average, and the hospital’s average time to heart transplant is lower.

One-year heart transplant patient survival rate

  • Children’s Colorado: 96%
  • National: 91.37%

Three-year heart transplant patient survival rate

  • Children’s Colorado: 95.83%
  • National: 88.61%

Median time to heart transplant

  • Children’s Colorado: 2.7 months
  • Regional: 5 months
  • National: 5.5 months

Thinking beyond patient survival

“When pediatric hospitals began performing heart transplants in the 1980s, the focus was solely on survival,” said Dr. Everitt. “But now, thanks to multidisciplinary teams such as the one at Children’s Hospital Colorado, the focus includes getting children back home and returning to normal childhood life as soon as possible.”

Multidisciplinary team treats the whole child

The Heart Institute’s multidisciplinary team focuses on more than a patient’s physical needs. The team includes not only pediatric and adult congenital cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons and interventionists, pulmonologists, pharmacists, transplant coordinators and cardiac care nurses but also psychologists, dietitians, physical and occupational therapists, social workers, child life specialists and chaplains. These caregivers attend to every aspect of a patient's wellbeing, including their mental, emotional and spiritual needs.

Learn about the Heart Institute Wellness Program.

Grateful for every patient and donor

“It is important to keep in mind that none of this would be possible without families who are willing to make this precious gift,” said Matt Stone, MD, cardiothoracic surgeon and Surgical Director of the Heart Transplant Program at Children’s Colorado. “There is a very special donor at the center of every heart transplant, and we are thankful for each and every one.” Children's Colorado coordinates all pediatric transplants with the help of Donor Alliance, the federally-designated organ procurement organization for the region.

“Every patient we’ve served has meant the world to us, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to provide care to the children and families in our program,” said Dave Campbell, MD, cardiothoracic surgeon and former director of the Heart Transplant Program.

Transitioning care into adulthood

Children’s Colorado is home to the only pediatric transplant center in the state and one of just a few in the entire Rocky Mountain region. When the hospital’s pediatric patients reach adulthood, they transition to Children’s Hospital Colorado’s Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program, a joint program with UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital, also located on the Anschutz Medical Campus.

About Juniper

Juniper became one of the hundreds of patients who have received heart transplant care at Children's Colorado when she received her heart at 7 months old. Today, she’s a healthy, happy first-grader who loves dogs, swimming, camping with her family in the summer and playing with her two younger siblings every day. 

"Juniper is a kid who loves joking around and has boundless energy," her mom, Joni, shared. “We are still so grateful for Juniper's donor and family for the seven and a half years we've gotten with our girl so far. She has a great quality of life and we look forward to many more years with our Junebug.”

In 2018, Juniper's story was featured in the hospital's campaign:

Learn more about the lifesaving gift of organ, eye and tissue donation, and how to register as a donor.