Boy becomes world’s youngest recipient of smaller artificial heart

Posted at 8:47 PM, Jan 18, 2017

CHICAGO -- As he awaits a heart transplant, a boy from the Chicago suburb of Aurora became the youngest person in the world to receive a smaller version of a temporary artificial heart, according to WGNTV.

Jaheim Whigham, 11, is one of the most popular patients at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago. He says the artificial heart he received six weeks ago makes him feel like a robot.

On Tuesday, the Lurie cardiac team, his family and his army of caregivers proudly talked about his status as a medical marvel -- the world's youngest recipient of the 50cc SynCardia Total Artificial Heart (TAH-t).

"Our primary worry was was that we wouldn't be able to keep him going for the months that it takes to wait for a new heart," said Dr. Kiona Allen. "You only have to see him to know that you would do whatever you need to do to fight for him."

Not only had Jaheim's surgeons never worked with the new artificial heart, according to WGN, but there was no model specifically designed for children like him.

The device Jaheim received is a smaller version of the 70cc TAH-t. The smaller device was designed to fit women, men of smaller stature and adolescents.

Jaheim was born with a heart defect and underwent his first transplant in 2012 but his body began rejecting that last year. With Jaheim's health worsening, doctors implanted the 50cc Total Artificial Heart last month. It's a transplant bridge seldom used in children.

Jaheim is the youngest and smallest recipient ever, and one of only 40 worldwide.

"It's an amazing thing to be here, and to have my kid to be with every single day," said an emotional Michael Wigham, Jaheim's father.

Now the hope is that the wait for a donor transplant heart won't be too long. According to the Gift of Hope, in the U.S. alone more than 4,200 people are awaiting heart transplants.

So what does Jaheim want now? "I wanna go home," the 11-year-old told reporters.