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Doctor Says Childbearing No Factor In Death

February 21, 1985

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ The doctor who performed a heart transplant on a woman five years ago said Thursday that he advised her against having a baby, but he said childbearing probably did not cause her fatal rejection of her heart.

″I told her that I thought it would be unwise, but if you knew (her), you know she would have done what she wanted regardless of advice,″ said Dr. Stuart Jamieson, associate professor of cardiovascular surgery at Stanford University Medical Center.

Betsy Sneith, who was unmarried, died Wednesday afternoon after being flown by helicopter to UC San Diego Medical Center. The preliminary cause of death was listed as cardiac arrest.

Ms. Sneith’s transplant was performed before testing was completed on the drug cyclosporin, which reduces the chance of the donor heart being rejected, Jamieson.

″I would imagine that, from what I know, (the childbearing) was totally independent of the rejection,″ he said.

Five years ago this week, Ms. Sneith, 24, received the transplanted heart of a man who died in an automobile accident. Last Sept. 16, she gave birth to a healthy baby girl, whom she named Sierra Jamieson. The middle name was given for Jamieson, who was the lead surgeon in her transplant.

An unemployed computer programmer, Ms. Sneith never revealed the name of Sierra’s father.

The 5-month-old baby has been placed in a foster home by San Diego County health officials, but Ms. Sneith’s mother, Nada, said she planned to raise the child.

Nada Sneith, who resides in a Pittsburgh suburb, said she would fly to San Diego and talk with authorities about Sierra’s placement as well as make funeral arrangements for her daughter.

″Her future was not assured to care for a baby, and that’s the sad thing about this,″ Jamieson said in a telephone interview.

A spokeswoman at UC San Diego Medical Center said autopsy results on Ms. Sneith were not immediately available. She said Dr. Howard Dittrich, who was Ms. Sneith’s attending physician during her pregnancy last year, had no immediate comment.

In a news conference in September, five days after giving birth, Ms. Sneith said having a child was very important to her, especially because she would have died in a matter of months without a transplant.

″This (having a baby) was one way of her demonstrating that she was going to have a normal life,″ Jamieson said. ″She was a remarkable person because she had this amazing courage that is not always found in somebody so young.″

At the time of her transplant in 1980, Ms. Sneith was the 185th heart recipient at Stanford. In all, 330 transplants have been conducted since 1968 at the medical center, and 145 of the recipients are still living, spokeswoman Mary-Nelson Campbell said.

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