Mark Steele – Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Boy Testimonial

At only two weeks of age, Mark Steele was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy and going into heart failure. Through advances in pediatric heart treatment, Mark survived until his recent transplant.

“Mark went for his two-week checkup,” said Shannon Steele. “He was sleeping a lot,” she told the pediatrician, “I don’t know that everything’s all right.” The mother’s instincts were correct. Her pediatrician found that the infant had an enlarged heart, known as dilated cardiomyopathy, and he was going into heart failure.

Dilated cardiomyopathy is a condition where the heart becomes weakened and enlarged, and it cannot pump blood efficiently.

“They told us that probably his only hope of survival would be a transplant,” Mrs. Steel said. For the first several years of his life, doctors treated Mark with medications. “For the first three and a half years of his life, you would have never known he was sick. In the back of our minds we thought maybe he’s going to be OK and this transplant’s never going to have to happen.”

“When he was about four, he was having a hard time. He was getting tired, he was throwing up, and he was starting to lose weight, and that’s when his team of doctors told us this is it. Unless we find a heart for him very soon, we’ve run out of options to keep him alive.”

“Pediatric heart failure is considerably different than adult heart failure, which can occur over time,” explains Peter Wearden, MD, PhD, director Pediatric Mechanical Cardiopulmonary Support Program for Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. “In contrast, pediatric heart failure can be very sudden. A child may be with his parents at a birthday party one day and the next day in the emergency room on an echocardiogram demonstrating severe heart failure.”

Such was the case with Mark, whose heart was failing but no transplant was immediately available.

“Mark was just barely holding on and we took him into the operating room and placed the Berlin Heart in him. It saved Mark’s life,” Dr. Wearden said. “It kept him in the hospital waiting for a heart transplant.”

When a heart became available for Mark, Children’s Heart Transplant team conducted a transplant. Shedding the encumbrances of the mechanical circulatory support devices, Mark resumed physical activities. Today he plays baseball and basketball, able to enjoy physical activities just the same as any other childe of his age.

“Mark received his transplant, and he is wonderful now,” said Mrs. Steele. “He has not been hospitalized one single time since that day."