St. Joseph’s gives baby, family hope with heart transplant

Say one thing for Kaiden Ramsey Hermosillo. He’s a fighter.

Kaiden, just 7 months old, recently became the first infant to undergo a heart transplant at a Phoenix-area hospital. Kaiden is recovering at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center and is expected to return to his Peoria home early next week.

“He seems like he’s in a great mood. He’s happy and smiling,” said Dr. John Nigro, St. Joseph’s heart transplant director and a surgeon who helped perform the transplant on April 15.

St. Joseph’s launched its pediatric heart-transplant program for children and infants such as Kaiden who otherwise would need to travel to University Medical Center in Tucson or to California hospitals.

Nigro said 10 to 20 Arizona children need heart transplants each year. The hospital expects it will complete about five transplants each year, linking patients with matching donors.

Last November, St. Joseph’s gained the United Network for Organ Sharing network’s approval for a heart transplant program. St. Joseph’s has completed 38 lung transplants since it launching its lung-transplant center in 2007.

Mayo Clinic also operates a heart-transplant center at its northeast Phoenix hospital.

Nigro said that government-funded insurance programs such as the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System prefer organ transplant programs located in-state because it generally costs less than out-of-state hospitals.

Monica Coury, an AHCCCS spokeswoman, said the cost of lung transplants ranges widely based on the medical circumstances of individual patients. Lung transplants can range from $250,000 to $650,000 per patient. Coury did not immediately have comparable figures for heart transplants.

Kaiden’s parents, Robert Ramsey and Marissa Sior Hermosillo, said Kaiden’s heart troubles have been stressful. Since Kaiden was born in September, he has endured three open-heart surgeries, including two within his first month.

Kaiden was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a congenital heart defect that rendered his left heart chamber unable to pump blood. Surgeons completed work to try to correct the problem, but no procedure sustained his heart long term.

Kaiden was at home in March when he stopped breathing. He was transported to St. Joseph’s via medical helicopter. Doctors determined he had heart failure, and within two days of being listed with the donor network, Kaiden secured a donor’s heart.

Even as his sickest, his mother said that Kaiden would try his hardest to smile and play.

“He has so much fight in him,” said Sior Hermosillo. “That is why we wanted to make sure we did everything we possibly could.”

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