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5-month-old survives heart-lung transplant, becomes youngest recipient in a decade

Despite all the odds, Jack successfully underwent the surgeries and his health is improving by leaps and bounds
(Source:Getty Images)
(Source:Getty Images)

Doctors Chuck and Tiffany Palmer of Kansas City, Missouri were not new to the hypoplastic left heart syndrome as a result of their careers in healthcare. Of course, even though they were aware of the medical condition, this did not prepare the couple to deal with the fact that their son had the condition. 

Thirty five-year-old Tiffany told People, "It was devastating. It was at our 20-week ultrasound. We weren’t expecting the diagnosis. No parent ever is. The scary reality of what was to come was there. We knew most babies with this diagnosis don’t survive pregnancy, and if they do they typically don’t survive much past birth". However, their son Jack was able to overcome those odds and was on born on January 16. 

The 'Hypoplastic left heart syndrome' is a rare congenital defect which means that a part of the baby's heart is underdeveloped. Around one out of every 4,344 babies born in the United States is diagnosed with this condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The doctors warned the Palmer parents early on and said that the baby would require a heart-lung transplant and when Jack was just two weeks old, he underwent his first open-heart surgery. 

"For me being postpartum, I was probably the most emotional I’ve ever been. I cried all the time. I was an emotional mess. But we were told he wouldn’t even survive the delivery. So here we were, approximately 10 days in and Jack was, yes in NICU, but with us. We had gotten to hold him… all of those emotions played a factor in our decision to move forward with transplant," Tiffany shared. 

Jack had to remain at the St.Louis Children's hospital and doctors worked tirelessly to save his life. "We’ve never given up hope. Our mantra the whole pregnancy and Jack’s whole life has been, ‘For Jack, not to Jack,’" Tiffany added. "As long as we were doing things to give him some sort of a good quality of life then we would continue to be hopeful. Continue to move forward. During my pregnancy he continued to grow and develop otherwise normally which gave us hope," she continued. 

At three weeks old, he had to undergo a second open-heart surgery. Jack's condition was very severe and the heart defect had also impacted his lungs and so he needed a heart-lung transplant. Little Jack also had an intact atrial septum which makes it difficult for blood to flow through the body properly and this made the whole condition much more difficult and complicated to deal with. 

Once Jack was operated on, he became the youngest person in a decade to successfully undergo the surgery and his health began to improve by leaps and bounds. "It was amazing! The first thing we noticed was how pink he was," Chuck shared. "He stayed intubated for a few weeks after, but he was awake, he could interact with us. He would smile. It’s been amazing to see how quick he’s starting to pick up on things that a normal 6-month-old should be doing". 

He was recently discharged from the hospital and was staying with his family at a St. Louis apartment his parents had rented; the family hopes to return home to Kansas City soon. "He could be angry and upset and mad all the time after what he’s been through," Tiffany shared of Jack. "But, at the end of the day, he still smiles and wants to play with you and wants to be loved. His smile makes everything worth it," she added.