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Say Infant Could Survive Months While Awaiting Donor Heart

June 9, 1986

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) _ An infant initially rejected for a heart transplant because his parents were young and unmarried could survive months on medication and with a balloon in his defective heart while a donor is sought, doctors said Monday.

Fifteen-day old Jesse Sepulveda, approved for the experimental operation after the parents relinquished custody to the baby’s grandparents to ensure post-surgical care, was listed in serious but stable condition at Huntington Memorial Hospital.

Jesse was being cared for in Huntington Memorial’s neo-natal intensive care unit while awaiting the operation to be performed at Loma Linda University Medical Center, which has successfully performed four infant heart transplants.

″We cannot say how long he will stay alive - it could be days, weeks or months,″ said Dr. Paul E. Johnson Jr., one of two Huntington Memorial doctors who described the baby’s treatment at a news conference.

Doctors last week inserted a catheter with a balloon in the baby’s heart, which has a defective left ventricle that cannot pump blood throughout the body. The balloon props open a hole between two of the infant’s heart chambers so blood can be mixed before it is pumped by the right ventricle.

The baby also is receiving prostaglandin E-1, an anti-clotting drug that helps the blood flow freely.

Using a respirator for air and a tube for food, Jesse is alert, has gained weight and appears quite healthy except for the fatal heart defect, the doctors said.

The baby Monday weighed 10 pounds, 5 ounces, Dr. Ernesto Gangitano said. A baby Jesse’s age normally weighs about 8 pounds, the doctor said.

″Considering the heart underdevelopment, his condition is very good,″ said Gangitano, a neonatologist. ″He is a healthy, strong boy.″

Representatives of the Jesse’s parents, 17-year-old Deana Binkley and 26- year-old Jesse Sepulveda, said Loma Linda refused to consider Jesse for transplant after he was born May 25 because the parents were unwed and doctors feared the baby would receive inadequate care.

Jesse’s parents requested a transplant after rejecting surgery that would have modified the baby’s defective heart, because the procedure has a 50 percent mortality rate within a year, Liberman said.

The hospital at Loma Linda, about 60 miles east of Los Angeles, and St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia are the only two known to have performed the experimental operations.

The cost of Jesse’s care has been paid by California Children’s Services, a state agency, said Ricardo Liberman, a Huntington neonatologist. It normally costs up to $2,000 a day for treatment in Huntington’s neo-natal intensive care uit.

The cost of the transplant operation would be paid by Loma Linda, which has paid for four previous baby heart transplants, said spokeswoman Joyce McClintock.

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