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After young patient Gabriel was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy (when the left ventricle of the heart — the chamber responsible for pumping blood to the lungs and body — becomes enlarged and weakened), doctors determined that his tired heart had run out of time. He needed a brand new heart.
STS member Daniel Velez, MD, Division Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Phoenix Children’s, advocated on behalf of Gabriel. Dr. Velez petitioned for Gabriel to be fitted for an artificial heart, which was approved only for adult use. The lifesaving device serves as a “bridge” for patients waiting for a heart transplant, routing the circulation of blood to the lungs and other parts of the body. But, it had never been installed in a patient as young as Gabriel. The operation was a success and he became the youngest patient in the world to receive the artificial heart.