The Heart of Life

For a family with a child in need of a heart transplant, getting the call that a donor heart is available can bring a huge sigh of relief. That relief can be short-lived, though, as the longevity of donor organs can be uncertain.

The average lifespan of a donated heart, in fact, is just twelve years. If a child needs a heart transplant at a young age, this means they could possibly require another transplant before they even enter their twenties. This, combined with all the processes and procedures necessary to make sure the donated organ is performing properly, can lead to a long road for the recipient.

For these children and their families, there is hope, by way of Enduring Hearts. “Enduring Hearts recognizes that twelve years is not a lot of time for a child who receives a heart transplant at a very young age,” said Ankur Chatterjee, President and Executive Director of the nonprofit. “We fund research to improve the longevity of those organs and try to make the quality of life for these children substantially better.”

Patrick Gahan and his wife founded Enduring Hearts in 2012. Their young daughter Mya had weakened heart muscles, and was in need of a transplant. While going through the process, they found out that transplants are not permanent fixes, and that Mya would need frequent care and eventually another transplant. They started the nonprofit to address the need and help families in their same situation.

The organization has raised $2.5 million for new research and advanced science. They focus on issues affecting transplant patients, and how to improve their quality of life, placing special attention on conditions facing young children.

Working with the American Heart Association and the International Society of Heart & Lung Transplantation, Enduring Hearts funds clinical research and new technology to increase transplant durability. Priority is given to research conducted on the long-term results of transplant patients, and each organization provides a funding match for selected projects. With multiple projects in the works right now, current research includes stem cell-based therapies, coronary disease in heart transplant patients, and short-term therapies to diminish instances of heart transplant rejection.

For families with children receiving heart transplants, this work is critical, and provides essential comfort. “These families are looking at it as a lifeline for their kids,” Chatterjee said. “This is stuff that can directly impact the lifespan of your own child. It’s great to be able to offer these families that kind of hope.”

Enduring Hearts accepts donations from funders throughout the year, and hosts an annual Bourbon Gala & Auction, coming up on March 30. Auctioning off 16 bottles of hard-to-find Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon, all proceeds go toward funding research.
Grant requests and funding applications for the summer program schedule are due by June 10, with a decision and award granted by November 1. Those interested in learning more about the organization or how to apply for funding can visit Enduring Heart’s website at www.enduringhearts.org.