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Youngest recipient of mechanical heart in Africa

A five-year-old KwaZulu-Natal boy made history when he became the youngest person in Africa to receive a mechanical heart implantation. The ground-breaking operation was done by the very capable doctors at the Maboneng Heart Institute‚ at the Netcare Sunninghill Hospital.

Doctors inserted a heart ventricular assist device (HVAD) into Mnotho Mndebele’s severely damaged heart which helps it to pump blood.

Mnotho‚ from Newcastle‚ only weighs about 17 kg’s — making him one of the smallest and youngest people to have undergone this type of operation in the world‚ according to Dr Viljee Jonker‚ a cardiothoracic surgeon who led the implantation team.

He suffered from dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)‚ a condition in which the left ventricle of the heart becomes enlarged and weakened and is no longer able to pump blood properly.

After being in an intensive care unit for four months Mnotho is expected to return home this week where Jonker said he should live a “normal life”.

“We fully expect him to be able to go to school and do everything a normal young boy would do. However‚ unlike other children he will carry a small external battery pack for his implanted HVAD mechanical heart either on a belt around his waist‚ or in a small backpack‚” said Jonker.

Mnotho will have to recharge the batteries every eight hours.

“Mnotho had been on the heart transplant list but paediatric heart donations rarely become available. He had also been in and out of intensive care units at various hospitals in the year leading up to the operation. In his case‚ we opted to use the HVAD as a bridge to a future heart transplant. In reality‚ it is a lifeline until such time as a matching donor heart can be found for him to undergo a biological heart transplant‚” said Jonker.