Humans logo

What happened when an American mother defied condemnation and transplanted a baboon heart into her newborn daughter in 1984

by tige 3 months ago in science / movie review
Report Story

eonard Bailey, the renowned Loma Linda University Health surgeon who garnered international media attention in 1984 for transplanting a baboon’s heart into a human infant known as “Baby Fae,” died on May 12, 2019, at the age of 76 following a battle with cancer.

On October 14, 1984, Teresa, an American single mother, gave birth to a baby girl named Stephanie in a maternity hospital in California.

Unlike other families who rejoiced at the prospect of a new baby, Teresa lay pale in her hospital bed, her eyes empty, as if her energy had been drained from her.

A few minutes earlier, the doctor told her that Stephanie had been diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, and it was worse, with half of her heart completely undeveloped.

Babies with this disease, basically no cases of survival, generally only a few hours, the longest survival is only a few weeks, unless a miracle happens.

The doctor's words hit Teresa's mind like a thunderclap, and also like a death sentence for her daughter from Yamaha, who is in charge of life and death.

Looking at the grieving young mother in front of her, the doctor was moved and gave Stephanie a more detailed examination.

"Your daughter will live at most 14 days, resign yourself to life ......".

How can a mother watch her child die? Not only did Teresa not resign herself to her fate, she had to let her daughter be the subject of an experiment to perform the first-ever human baboon heart transplant.

How did Teresa get in touch with the doctors involved? Did Stephanie survive? Should animal lives be used to save human lives or not?

Holding on to the only hope of survival and agreeing to a human trial

At the end of Teresa's conversation with the doctor, the doctor handed her a card of a necropsy officer to facilitate the funeral of the child after her death.

Teresa threw the card in the trash, turned around and took the baby home, taking care of everything without leaving it to others.

For nearly ten days afterwards, she carried the baby to all of California's leading pediatric hospitals, each time going in with hope and returning with disappointment.

The faint hope collapsed in front of the cruel reality, leaving a heavy sense of powerlessness, so that she had to accept the reality that her daughter would soon die.

Teresa resigned herself to her fate, wanting only to spend more time with her daughter, all the life of mother-daughter love. In order to record the short time, she took pictures of every move she made with her daughter.

The days passed in a torturous wait, Stephanie's condition was getting worse day by day, the possibility of premature death at any time, Teresa tensed her nerves, not even daring to close her eyes.

At the same time, a private school in southern California, Loma Linda University, its internal research team led by Dr. Bailey, for Stephanie's situation, a heated discussion.

Dr. Bailey is an internationally renowned professor of medicine, and the research team he leads specializes in heart transplant research, especially in exploring how to transplant animal hearts into humans to achieve life-saving cardiac treatments.

A view of Loma Linda University

Previously, the research team conducted long-term animal experiments and successfully transplanted the hearts of several lambs into goats, each of which lived for a month by giving them anti-rejection drugs.

Having a successful animal heart transplant greatly increased Dr. Bailey's research confidence, and the research team conducted several more animal experiments afterwards.

The structure of animals is very different from that of the human body, and as an avid medical expert, Dr. Bailey inevitably had the idea of creating a medical miracle, but experimenters who dared to participate in transplanting animal hearts into humans were extremely rare, and the research team had therefore been unable to find a suitable subject for the experiment.

When Stephanie was born and examined for heart problems, the research team, which had a partnership with the local hospital, immediately received the news, and having read the baby girl's profile, they were amazed to find that Stephanie fully met the criteria for human experimentation.

As for whether the patient's family would agree, the research team was not worried at all, they expected Teresa would agree to let her daughter perform the experiment, because that is a mother's maternal instinct, grabbing once Hi would never give up.

Have to admit that the research team caught Teresa's psychology, then the researchers made a phone call to Teresa, inviting Stephanie as an experimental subject to participate in the world's first baboon heart transplant human surgery, perhaps to get a chance to live.

Although it was the first time Teresa had heard that animal hearts could be transplanted into humans, she knew that the operation was extremely risky and that even if it was successful, the subsequent rejection would be painful enough for her daughter, but as a mother who was about to lose her daughter, she did not hesitate to agree.

Once an agreement was reached, the two parties immediately went into action, with Dr. Bailey and the researchers working on heart transplant preparations and selecting six captive baboons.

Teresa made some arrangements and then rushed off with her daughter to the research facility that Dr. Bailey had taken with him.

After a team of experts worked to evaluate Stephanie's health, Dr. Bailey decided to operate on Stephanie on October 26, 1984.

Before the surgery could take place, however, news of Dr. Bailey's upcoming operation to transplant a baboon's heart into the baby girl spread and instantly caused a huge stir in American society, followed by an outpouring of accusations.

Why was the reaction of the American public so overwhelming? In the face of public pressure, will Stephanie's heart transplant go ahead as planned?

Should animal organs be transplanted into humans, or not?

After the news broke, staff members of major media outlets swarmed to Loma Linda University to mob Dr. Bailey for interviews.

American TV news programs, well-known newspapers and magazines also reported the research project Dr. Bailey was involved in, and the upcoming experiments.

Experts and scholars from all walks of life, as well as the general public, expressed mixed opinions about the incident, with disparagement being the majority, mainly around humanitarianism.

Some said that Dr. Bailey had been conducting long-term experiments on healthy animal organs for transplantation, that a large number of animals had died as a result of medical experiments, and that his wanton deprivation of animal life was extremely cruel.

Is it really right for Dr. Bailey's upcoming human trial of a baboon heart transplant to use the life of a healthy animal to save a baby girl who may not always be saved?

People at the ASPCA and a large group of people who practice animal protection have raised the flag directly against in vivo experimentation on animals.

There is also a segment of the population that points out that organ transplants between humans, performed with matching blood types, genetic loci, and a host of other conditions, can yet result in strong rejection reactions, which in turn can lead to the death of the patient.

Organ transplantation between animals and humans cannot be screened for matching conditions as in human organ transplantation, and the probability and circumstances of rejection in patients after surgery must also increase.

It is a trampling on life to rashly experiment with animal organ transplants in humans before the availability of potent anti-rejection drugs.

These people stood up to protest from the perspective of animal and human life, while the remaining part of the population stood up to oppose from the perspective of human attributes.

Will the transplantation of animal organs into humans with animal genes affect the original human structure and cause this patient to mutate and thus develop the genetic characteristics of the animal to which the organ belongs.

In the future, animal organ transplant technology is mature, human body problems slightly transplant surgery, a person if the body organs are replaced with animal organs, then this person can still be called human?

At that time, organ transplantation becomes a common phenomenon, and the moral system of human ethics to maintain human society will face collapse.

More seriously, animals often carry a variety of viruses in their bodies, it is likely that with the transplantation of animal organs into the human body, no one can predict the harmful effects of those viruses, no one knows whether the virus will mutate in the human body and develop into a new terrible epidemic, at that time, it will be a disaster for humanity.

Amidst the chaos of questions, only a few doctors, scholars and people interested in heart transplant technology said that if Dr. Bailey's experiment was successful, it would be a miracle in the history of human medicine and would be a major step forward for medicine.

Regardless of the voices of the outside world, Dr. Bailey and Teresa could not be dissuaded from performing the surgery, and on October 26, 1984, the world's first human heart transplant trial on a baboon took place as scheduled.

The operation was a success!

The entire operation was led by Dr. Bailey himself, assisted by other members of the research team. The operation was so controversial that Dr. Bailey endured enormous surgical risks and arguably gambled his professional future.

However, he maintained his usual composure and calmness to open the organ transplant surgery, which lasted up to ten hours.

Everything was ready and the surgery began. Dr. Bailey picked up the scalpel and sharply sliced open Stephanie's chest cavity before preparing to remove only half of her heart.

"The instruments that monitored Stephanie's signs suddenly rang sharply, and the assistants involved in the surgery had their scalps tingling and their bodies breaking out in a cold sweat, and they all realized that the situation was not good.

Stephanie's body temperature plummeted to 20 degrees Celsius in just a few minutes after her chest cavity was opened. Doctors noticed the change in her body temperature and immediately took a number of measures, but they were unable to stop her temperature from dropping.

The doctors' confidence was shattered when the operation began, and they all turned their attention to Dr. Bailey, who remained unfazed, removing Stephanie's movements without pause.

Influenced by Dr. Bailey, the others quickly adjusted and assisted Dr. Bailey in removing the heart.

Meanwhile, in another operating room, the most suitable baby baboon was selected from a group of six and the thorax was opened by the research team's doctors.

After Stephanie's heart removal surgery was completed, Dr. Bailey quickly moved to another operating room to remove the baboon's heart, and then moved to Stephanie's operating room for a heart transplant.

The difficulty factor of heart transplantation was very high, and at that time, only a few doctors were able to complete the transplantation, which lasted for more than ten hours, and the doctors who assisted in the surgery held their breath and stared intently at the project they were responsible for.

Although Dr. Bailey was well prepared before the surgery, he was also nervous during the operation, and his assistant wiped his sweat several times during the critical moments.

Fortunately, Dr. Bailey was experienced in surgery, and he carefully and responsibly dealt with the difficulties encountered during the operation, and personally sewed up Stephanie's incision at the end.

At the end of the surgery, the data shown on the instrument was still abnormal. Everyone, including Dr. Bailey, watched the instrument quietly, expecting a miracle to happen.

The silence stretched out the time, and finally, a miracle occurred. Stephanie's baboon heart began to beat regularly, and the monitoring instruments made a regular ticking sound.

The operation was a success, and the doctors high-fived and cheered, moved to witness the miracle of Stephanie's life and impressed by Dr. Bailey's superb surgical operation.

Teresa, who was outside the operating room, also received the good news, and she was overwhelmed with joy, shedding tears of joy, when her nerves, which had been tense for 12 days, relaxed a little.

However, Dr. Bailey's words again made her slightly relaxed nerves, suddenly tense up ......

Will a miracle really happen?

"Let's not be prematurely happy, the patient is most likely to have a rejection reaction after transplanting the organ, the risk of which is much higher than when the surgery is in progress".

Dr. Bailey informed the family and medical staff of the dangers of Stephanie's condition and asked the medical staff to monitor Stephanie's condition 24/7, to give her the strong anti-rejection drug cyclosporine, and to record the data after taking the anti-rejection drug.

During the 48 hours after the surgery, Stephanie's condition was very unstable, and her body indicators fluctuated from high to low, which was always on the staff's mind.

Fortunately, with the help of the anti-rejection medication, Stephanie's health indicators stabilized over the next two weeks, with a slow recovery trend.

The medical staff was obviously relieved to see the results, and no one was happier than Teresa, who was overjoyed to agree to her daughter joining the experiment, and she didn't mind at all the concerns of outside opinion about human morality, as long as her daughter lived.

When everyone thought a miracle had happened, the accident came without warning.

On the 22nd day after the operation, Stephanie's body suddenly developed a strong rejection reaction, and with the rejection reaction came an infection inside her body, and several organs in her body began to fail, and the situation was critical.

Dr. Bailey and the team of doctors tried their best to save Stephanie's life, and tried all the medical treatments they could, but they still couldn't save her life.

Dr. Bailey and the team of doctors were very sorry that the miracle did not occur, but the most sad is Teresa, nothing is more desperate than to give hope and then take away hope.

She felt that her life had lost its light, leaving only endless cold and despair, but this was not the worst case scenario.

The next day, Dr. Bailey regrettably announced the news of Stephanie's death to the outside world, and this time, the public opinion was completely directed at Teresa and Dr. Bailey.

The public has accused Teresa of not being a good mother, the baby could have passed away without much pain, but she let her 10-day-old daughter be a test subject, in the process of suffering a huge painful body rejection slow death, which is a cruel and extreme act.

The public's accusations brought more mental stress to her, who was already immersed in the painful loss of her beloved daughter.

But Teresa has no regrets, every day she can be with her daughter is a gift from God, and if she had the chance to choose again, she would do it again.

In the face of questions and denials, Dr. Bailey also did not provide an explanation, but he still made his attitude clear.

"Because of the courage of Teresa and the baby, I believe that before long, all babies with heart disease will avoid tragedy".

During his 42 years of teaching at Loma Linda University, he never stopped his research in heart transplantation.

In particular, a year after Stephanie's death, in 1985, Dr. Bailey and his team drew on the lessons learned from Stephanie's surgery to complete a human-to-human heart transplant for children, and the child whose heart was replaced eventually lived on, and later married and had children and lived as a normal person.

The success of this operation has accumulated valuable experience for later generations of heart transplantation technology, pushing juvenile heart transplantation technology a big step forward.

In addition to Dr. Bailey's team researching heart transplantation technology, medical teams in other countries are also conducting related research, the more famous being a scientific research team from the University of Munich in Germany.

This research team conducted an animal heart transplant experiment in 2018, successfully transplanting the heart of a pig into a baboon and the baboon survived for 195 days after the heart transplant.

It is undeniable that subsequent interspecies heart transplant studies were not possible without the data from the baboon heart transplant that Stephanie participated in.

It is impossible to say whether the world's first interspecies heart transplant is right or wrong, but for every medical advancement, it is inseparable from the doctors who dare to try and the experimenters who make sacrifices behind the scenes.

The people who create and work for the miracle of life time and again deserve respect.

sciencemovie review

About the author

tige

I could have endured the darkness, yet I have seen the light

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights

Comments

There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2022 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.