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Rare Procedure Helps 3-Year-Old Avoid Heart and Lung Transplant

The Short of It

Doctors discover a surprising way to help a 3-year-old girl avoid needing a heart and lung transplant.

The Lowdown

Zoey Jones had her first life-saving surgery to treat a heart and lung defect when she was only 3 months old. She's had 13 surgeries, five strokes and seven cardiac arrests since. Last year, Zoey's original hospital in Nashville told her family there was nothing else they could do for her, so they referred her to Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

"She's spent more than half of her life in the hospital," said her mom Tori Goddard in a YouTube video released last week.

At first, doctors at Nationwide thought Zoey would need a rare double heart and lung transplant. But then they made the surprising discovery that a plug could help relieve blood pressure on the arteries in Zoey's lungs, so she wouldn't need a lung transplant after all! And after relieving the pressure on her lungs, doctors were able to operate to redirect blood flow and save Zoey from a heart transplant as well.

"Finding something like this is extraordinarily rare, and being able to help her in the way that we did really, I think, altered her life course," Dr. Darren Berman, co-director of Cardiac Catheterization and Interventional Therapy, says in the video.

The Upshot

What an amazing story! The operations went so well, that Zoey was home in 10 days rather than the expected two months.

"Her progress lately has been amazing," says Goddard. "Since we had her heart surgery, she has learned to walk by herself, and doctors told us she would never walk, and she's walking unassisted now."

She added that Zoey is most definitely living up to her name.

"It means life," she said. "And she is full of life."

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