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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 November 2007, 12:01 GMT
Baby has heart swap at five weeks
Andrew McAskie after his heart transplant operation
Andrew was just five weeks old when he had a heart transplant (North News & Pictures)
The parents of one of Britain's youngest heart transplant patients have praised the surgeons who carried out the life-saving procedure.

Andrew McAskie was just five weeks old when he had the operation at Freeman Hospital in Newcastle.

He had suffered a heart attack on the day he was born and was kept alive on a machine until a donor heart was found.

Andrew's parents also thanked the German family who donated the heart after the death of their baby.

Now almost a year old, Andrew has been at home for several months.

He is among the youngest transplant recipients in the UK and the youngest patient to receive a new heart at the Freeman Hospital.

We are absolutely delighted with Andrew and he has now been home with his parents for several months
Richard Kirk, consultant paediatric cardiologist

Twenty years ago, the hospital made history when five-month-old Kaylee Davidson, from Washington, Tyne and Wear, became the first baby to undergo a heart transplant.

Andrew's mother Sarah McAskie, a dentist, told The Journal newspaper the experience had made her realise how fragile life is.

"When I look at him and think there is someone else's heart in there keeping him going, it is mind blowing.

"We think about the donor family on a daily basis and pray for them to have some comfort."

Heart attack

When Andrew was born on December 30 last year weighing 8lb 1oz he appeared healthy. But later that day it was discovered his heart was not pumping properly.

In the next few weeks Andrew's heart stopped twice and he also had heart and kidney failure and suffered a stroke.

After the donor heart became available, doctors only had a four-hour window to transport the heart to Newcastle and carry out the operation.

Consultant paediatric cardiologist Richard Kirk said Andrew was now doing fantastically well.

"We are absolutely delighted with Andrew and he has now been home with his parents for several months.

"Without the transplant Andrew wouldn't have left the hospital. He would have been dead within weeks."

Andrew will have to take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of his life to stop his body rejecting the heart and in 12 years' time he could need another transplant.

Dr Kirk said the Freeman Hospital was one of two centres in the country carrying out heart transplants in children - the other being Great Ormond Street Hospital.

There are 177 patients under the age of 18 currently on the transplant list in the UK and 12 of those are waiting for a heart.

Cathy Ross, cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "The first heart transplant was performed in 1967.

"Forty years on, these vital operations continue to give people with serious heart problems, like Andrew, a second chance at life."

She said the BHF was currently funding studies into how to prevent long-term rejection of a transplanted heart while retaining the ability of the immune system to ward off infections.

"We hope that this research will provide new therapies in future to help more young people live a long and healthy life after transplant."

Parents talk about their son's life-saving operation

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