11-Year-Old Boy Becomes One of the Youngest to Get Artificial Heart

Jaheim Whighams artificial heart will keep him alive until he receives a real heart. PlayWLS
WATCH 11-Year-Old Boy Receives Artificial Heart

An Illinois boy has become one of the youngest people to receive an artificial heart after recently getting the life-saving device implanted at age 11, doctors said.

Jaheim Whigham is the youngest person to be given a new kind of artificial heart originally designed for women, according to the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago, Illinois.

Jaheim underwent a heart transplant at age 7 after being diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a birth defect that affects blood flow through the heart, the hospital said.

During a routine check-up in October, doctors found that his transplanted heart was failing after his immune system started to attack the donated organ.

“We had no other options but to implant Jaheim with the artificial heart,” Dr. Carl Backer, division head of cardiovascular surgery at Lurie Children’s Hospital and professor of surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said Tuesday in a statement.

Doctors performed the operation to implant the artificial heart in December, after his other organ systems started to fail.

“Since the artificial heart implant on December 1, 2016, Jaheim’s other organs have recovered nicely," Backer added. "He keeps getting stronger and has now been listed for a heart transplant.”

He is the youngest person to get the 50 cubic-centimeter SynCardia artificial heart, which was designed for women and men of smaller stature. The artificial heart is not a cure but used to help patients survive until they can get a transplant.