AN 18-day-old baby girl who was the youngest and smallest child in the world to be fitted with an artificial heart pump has died at a North-East hospital.
Doctors at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle were hoping that connecting Tiarna Middleton’s failing heart to to a Berlin Heart artificial heart pump would buy her enough time to allow her to have a transplant.
But after suffering medical complications and with no suitable donor heart available her medical team had no choice but to switch off the Berlin Heart device that was keeping her alive.
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Her parents, Sharney Gray and Gary Middleton, from Rowlands Gill, in Gateshead, were by their daughter’s side when she died in the paediatric intensive care unit on Monday night.
Her father, speaking to ITV News, said last night: "We are just trying to deal with it. Words cannot describe it really.
"We had to turn the machine off. The last 24 hours have been very difficult.
"Now I would like to start raising more awareness."
Writing on Facebook, her mother wrote: "My little princess became an angel last night.
"She took her wings early and went to be with her grandad."
Tiarna was born on May 22 at the Freeman Hospital with a very serious heart condition known as hypoplastic right heart syndrome (HRHS).
Because the right hand side of her heart had not developed properly and she had been born without coronary arteries, she was initially connected to an ECMO heart and lung bypass machine.
But after complications set in the Freeman Hospital team decided to take the gamble of making her the world’s youngest Berlin Heart-assisted patient.
Sadly, hopes that the machine would keep Tiarna alive until a donor could be found were dashed.
A spokewoman for the Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the Freeman Hospital, said: “We very saddened by the death of Tiarna Middleton. Our thoughts are with their family at this time.”
Previously, her parents called on the Government to change organ donor laws for newborns.
Medical guidelines in the UK currently prevent organs from children under two months from being donated.
While this hampers efforts to find donor hearts for very young babies in the UK this is not an issue in Europe and most of the rest of the world.
Tiarna’s mother told The Mirror: “Even if parents want them to be donors they can’t be and it’s stopping a lot of lives form being saved. For us, this rule has made things a lot worse.”
In March researchers at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London published a study which showed that a significant proportion of newborn babies who die in intensive care in the UK could potentially have donated organs to save another children’s life if national guidelines permitted.