4-year-old Children's Hospital patient becomes smallest to try adult heart pump

Posted at 10:34 PM, Jun 08, 2017

A 4-year-old heart transplant recipient is likely the smallest patient in the world to use a pump designed for adults. 

After years of being in and out of the hospital, Greyson Cornelius walked out of Children's Hospital of Wisconsin Thursday with a healthy heart.

"We knew we had a road ahead of us, but I think we're past that now," said Eugene "Blacky" Cornelius, Greyson’s dad.

Greyson was born with his organs flipped and an abnormal heart.

"He had his first cardiac surgery when he was eight days old and then he had another at six months," said Shannon Cornelius, his mom.

Doctors worked their magic and Greyson went home a happy baby for a few years.  But he came back to Children's Hospital in January with respiratory problems.

"He came back with unexplained heart failures, muscle pump was not working adequately," said Dr. Ron Woods, the surgical transplant director.

Surgeons got creative by using a HeartWare device on Greyson.  It's designed for adults between 100 and 300 pounds, but the 4-year-old was only 25 pounds.

"It's essentially a mechanical pump that takes over the work of the heart when the heart isn't able to do the job of pumping blood to the body," said Dr. Steven Kindel, the medical director of heart transplants.

The pump helped Greyson stay alive until a heart was available.

"He's the smallest case we've done here and probably one of the smallest cases in the world," Kindel said.

"What this boy’s been through is more than most will ever go through in a lifetime," Woods said.

Dad said the journey was emotional and mom called it a rollercoaster.

"I had my days where I didn't know if I could do it anymore and you walk in and you see his face and you see him fighting and there's no way you could ever give up on him," Shannon said.