Can you replace a heart?

July 4, 2011 1:26:50 PM PDT
Taking a human heart out and replacing it with an artificial heart is rare. Only 800 adults have had a total artificial heart, and it's even rarer for children.

But Texas Children's Hospital has performed its first total artificial heart surgery on a Houston teenager. Three weeks later, he is doing well and getting used to his mechanical heart.

"Up until now I've lived a normal life. I thank god for that everyday," says Jordan.

When you talk to Jordan Merecka, the first thing you notice is the pumping sound. It's his artificial heart beating. He needed a heart transplant, but one wasn't available. So Texas children's surgeons removed his old heart and replaced it with these pumps, which is attached to a 400 pound console.

"I don't have any chest pain, my energy level has skyrocketed," says Jordan.

He lived to turn 18, one 1 week later. He graduated from high school. His sister Allison walked across the stage for him.

"I don't know how he's been able to get through all this he's just changed all of our lives," says his brother, Brandon Merecka.

This mechanical heart will give Jordan time to wait for a heart transplant and he'll be able to wait at home.

"There's the potential to go home. Just 3-4 years ago if you had this device you had to stay in the hospital and actually there are people who stayed in the hospital for a year or year and a half," says Jordan's surgeon, Dr. David Morales.

Jordan credits god for making the artificial heart available at Texas. And his parents are amazed at his courage the past 3 months.

It's been a month and a half since that operation. Jordan has already gotten stronger with the artificial heart, and that will make it safer for him when a human heart does become available for transplant.

His father says Jordan is still in the hospital and still waiting for a heart, but he's getting stronger every day, and he's hoping to go home soon with that portable unit.