Chloe Narbonne is 13 years old, bright and thoughtful, with a love of tending her garden and learning to play golf. She is also medically unique, as the youngest person in Europe to have received a completely artificial heart.
Chloe, who was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy four weeks after birth, was placed on the transplant list after her heart failed at age 11. While waiting for that crucial operation she suffered complications including a stroke, and when her transplant finally came, her body rejected the new organ and she was left close to death.
The only option to keep Chloe alive until another donor could be found was a total artificial heart, but this device had never been used in a patient as young as Chloe – anywhere in Europe.
However, thanks to a seamless collaboration between Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals, the procedure was a success.
Chloe was kept stable until another donor heart became available a few weeks later – and that heart is still working perfectly.
The artificial heart operation took nine hours and involved 30 staff from Royal Brompton, Harefield and Great Ormond Street Hospitals – including Harefield director of transplantation André Simon, who flew back early from a conference in the USA to undertake the pioneering procedure.
Mr Simon, who has carried out all 13 artificial heart surgeries that have occurred in London hospitals, said: “I thought there was a 50/50 chance Chloe would still be alive when I got back.”
While the Trust’s transplant theatres are at Harefield Hospital, the crucial post-operative life support that Chloe would need was in the paediatric intensive care unit at Royal Brompton. To overcome this, the entire transplant and mechanical support team from Harefield relocated to Royal Brompton for Chloe’s operation, bringing with them all the equipment needed.
Dr Margarita Burmester, paediatric intensive care consultant, said: “The teamwork was fantastic. Chloe undoubtedly owes her life to that teamwork.”
Speaking to the Guardian newspaper, Chloe’s mother Fabienne Narbonne, said: “How they saved Chloe should be recognised for what it is – a miracle. Without the artificial heart she would be dead. It kept her alive for those crucial few weeks. By the time she got it she had run out of options.”
Chloe said: “They’ve been so wonderful, you can’t thank them enough, I love it when I go back to the hospitals and see everyone.”
Today, Chloe is back at school for the first time in three years, and has tackled some important personal challenges, including experiencing her first plane ride, and conquering a 10-metre high treetop obstacle course on the first anniversary of her successful transplant.
While Chloe’s story stands out in so many ways, she is a member of a large and ever-growing community of transplant patients given a second chance at life because of the work of our world-class transplant teams.
"How they saved Chloe should be recognised for what it is - a miracle. Without the artificial heart she would be dead. It kept her alive for those crucial few weeks. By the time she got it she had run out of options."