March 24, 2014 6:55 pm

Little girl thriving at home following Sick Kids heart transplant

Watch the video above: A little girl with a new heart is thriving after a heart transplant at Sick Kids Hospital. Crystal Goomansingh reports. 

TORONTO – It was a months-long wait but it was worth it. Sophie, the two-year-old who was in hospital waiting for a heart transplant, is now back at home with her family. She’s laughing, playing and reading books like a little girl should thanks to a successful surgery.

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“Sophie’s doing really well. She walks, she’s playing more, she’s more independent and she wants to talk all day,” her mom, Dominique How Chun Lun, told Global News.

“She’s smiling, she’s much happier. She has a brighter future ahead of her,” she said.

READ MORE: Berlin Heart technology helps kids waiting for heart transplants

It’s been a long road for Sophie and her family. Last year, the little girl was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy and was put on a wait list for a heart transplant. In the meantime, the toddler had to count on an artificial heart to keep her going.

Dilated cardiomyopathy is a disease in the heart muscle that affects your heart’s main pumping chamber. In February 2012, at just 10 months old, Dominique knew something was wrong because her daughter’s voice was growing weaker and weaker. The baby was lethargic, and out of breath.

For the first year, medication seemed to work but by last March, Sophie’s health began deteriorating. That’s when she was connected to a Berlin Heart. It’s a blood-pumping device that acts like a bridge for kids on waiting lists for heart transplants.

WATCH: Sick Kids became one of the first institutions in North America to use the Berlin Heart and so far it’s helped more than two dozen kids at the Toronto hospital. Global News’ Crystal Goomansingh reports. 

By 2004, the Hospital for Sick Children became one of the first institutions in North America to use the Berlin Heart and so far it’s helped more than two dozen kids at the Toronto hospital. Kids can survive with the technology for months to years. They can also undergo rehab to stay strong for their looming heart surgeries.

READ MORE: Little girl’s organs her ‘final gift to the world’ following car crash

Sophie still had to stay in hospital, but outside of the ICU unit. With her new heart, she’s back at home and recuperating very well.

“She’s a very fortunate young girl. Our expectation is that she will live into adulthood and that she will have an essentially normal childhood,” said Dr. Anne Dipchand, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Toronto and head of heart transplants at the Hospital for Sick Children.

Sophie will be involved in a handful of studies, though. Scientists will look at how her body is adapting to her new heart, if certain antibodies cause rejection and document any long-term health implications ahead for the little girl.

“Though we know she has those antibodies, her new heart seems to be tolerating that and we will continue to learn then so that we can hopefully do other children who are older and give them an opportunity at heart transplantation,” Dipchand said, noting that Sophie’s one of the oldest Sick Kids heart transplant patients.

READ MORE: Canada marks 30th anniversary of first successful lung transplant in the world

While Sophie’s family is grateful for Dipchand’s efforts, the doctor and her colleagues thank their little patient for the insight they gained in treating her.

“We’re very fortunate that families allow us to learn from their kids while we’re taking care of them and following them,” Dipchand said.

In the entire continent, only about 350 pediatric heart transplants take place each year, Dipchand said.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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