Fifteen-year-old Vincent Lambert celebrated his birthday in the Montreal Children’s Hospital, a mechanical heart keeping his increasingly frail body alive.
He celebrated Christmas and Easter and rang in the New Year in a hospital bed as well.
For 219 days, Vincent and his family have been waiting, hoping that it might be the day that a heart became available and he could be rushed in for a transplant.
“I often think about the moment when his heart arrives,” said Dr. Samara Zavalkoff, an intensivist in pediatric critical care at the hospital.
“I’ve gone over and over in my head how I’ll tell him and his parents. I figure when I walk in the room, they’ll see it on my face right away.”
In 2011, 396 people received transplants in Quebec. But another 1,246 remained on the waiting list.
Lambert is a high priority on the pan-Canadian transplant list, but it may still be some time before a donor is identified.
According to Transplant Quebec, children in need of heart transplants wait an average of one year before a suitable one is found.
Until a new organ is identified, he’ll remain in hospital, relying on the shopping cart-sized mechanical heart.
The family and doctors hope his story will inspire others to ensure they sign their donor card.
They’re also starting a social media campaign, using the Twitter hashtag to raise awareness about organ donation.
The young Ontario woman, Hélène Campbell, brought in a flood of new organ donors when her Twitter updates from @alungstory were re-tweeted by talk show host Ellen DeGeneres and Justin Bieber.
She received a double lung transplant earlier in April, nearly eight months after her degenerative lung disorder was diagnosed. She’s now recovering in a Toronto hospital.
Lambert’s team said they’re optimistic that his story will inspire people in Quebec to make sure they’re on the donor registry as well.
For now, he remains stable. But any infection could diminish his chances for a transplant.
“He's essentially a healthy kid whose heart has failed him and if we're able to find that heart for him he's going to go and live a normal life,” Zavalkoff said.