Luke was listed for a heart transplant when he was just 4 days old.
For Luke, it should have been extremely difficult to find an organ match because, not only did the heart have to be small enough (about the size of a strawberry) to fit into his tiny newborn body, it would also have to be a compatible blood type to match his type O positive blood. Or would it?
Luke was one of the first recipient’s in the United States to receive an ABO-incompatible heart transplant, or a transplant where the donor’s blood does not match the recipient’s. At Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, one of only eight centers in the country* to have successfully performed a transplant of this kind, Luke received a type A heart in 2003.
In October 2004, Luke and his family celebrated his first birthday by giving back to Children’s. “Luke’s Big Heart Foundation” provides financial support to transplant patients and to further research. Today, Luke is a thriving toddler with no rejection of his heart.
The Procedure: ABO-Incompatible Heart Transplant
ABO-incompatible heart transplants are only possible in early infancy when there is an absence of antibodies against blood-group antigens. Due to the extreme scarcity of donor organs for infants, heart transplantation across ABO incompatibility has been considered when primary blood cells that cause rejection do not exist. ABO-incompatible transplants expand the donor pool for infants regardless of blood type.
One of the only differences in follow-up care is special blood work to monitor antibodies. The medicines used to prevent or treat rejection of a new heart are not increased compared to those of a typical transplant patient.
Each year, 30 percent of the infants waiting for heart transplants die. At Children’s, ABO-incompatible transplants will significantly reduce wait times and help minimize the waste of donor organs.