Baby girl becomes first in the UK to get portable heart pump while awaiting transplant

Baby girl becomes first in the UK to get portable heart pump while awaiting transplant
Mobile unit allows young Grace to spend time away from hospital ward

An 18-month-old girl has become the first child in the UK to be fitted with a portable heart pump while she waits for a transplant.

Grace Westwood was fitted last month with the mobile “Berlin heart” driving unit, meaning she can spend time away from the ward and can be taken for a walk in her pushchair.

She is being treated for a serious heart condition at Freeman Hospital, Newcastle, more than 200 miles from her home in Birmingham where she lives with her parents Becci and Darren.

The new, life-saving technology looks like a small suitcase and has a battery life of up to eight hours. It was developed in an international collaboration and has won an award.

Grace has been fitted with the unit to keep her alive until a transplant organ becomes available.

Paediatric consultant Dr Emma Simpson from the Freeman Hospital said: “Our goal was to reduce the stress and impact of a long-term hospitalisation on the children and their families by offering them mobility and autonomy in their daily lives in the hospital environment.”

Grace was born in November 2019 and her battle for life has been made harder by the pandemic. She was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy and became more severely ill in March 2020. In May last year she was flown to Newcastle for specialist treatment.

Darren Greenwood, her father, said: “It turned out that Grace was born with an impairment of the left ventricle but for a week it was a mystery what was wrong with her.

“She was so poorly and it wasn’t until we went into Birmingham Children’s Hospital we found out she had a heart condition.”

Becci Jones, her mother, said: “She’s leading as normal a life as she can and is amazing in herself.

“She loves everything and everyone and, while we’ve got to be careful with her, she’s trying to walk, she’s chatty and smiling all the time.”

Additional reporting by agencies