Artificial Heart Never Skipped A Beat

Fourteen-year-old D'Zhana Simmons has a newfound appreciation for machines - and in her case it's due to the artificial heart that saved her life.

The brave young girl talked to CBS Early Show co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez and shared her story of hardship that she endured while living with an artificial heart.

Simmons admits she didn't feel whole without a real heart, but that it was well worth the awkward feeling because ultimately it saved her life.

"I felt like I was a fake person. Like I didn't really exist. It was everything was fake," Simmons said.

Her tough journey began in July, when Simmons had a heart transplant that didn't work.

Therefore in order to save her life, the doctors kept her alive with an artificial heart for almost four months until she could receive a new heart.

Physically, D'Zhana, who now appears healthy, felt the difference with an artificial heart.

D'Zhana timidly shared her thoughts on the experience of waiting for a transplant.

"It felt like people kept continuously like making noises inside of you because the machine made noises," she said.

At times, D'Zhana admitted that while waiting for a real heart transplant, she was scared it wouldn't work out and that she felt sick.

She finally got the heart transplant after 118 days, but those days felt like an eternity to her and her mother.

"Very long, hard and stressful," said her mother, Twolla Anderson, of the ordeal. "I would listen to the machine, and the machine is what's keeping her here, beating for her. Day-to-day, she didn't know what to expect or what to think."

Dr. Marco Ricci and his team helped to save D'Zhana's life with the remarkable device.

"Well, this was a very difficult situation. We actually did the first transplant on D'Zhana in the beginning of July and unfortunately we had a rare complication of a heart transplant operation, in which the new heart did not work. We were sort of left in a bind," Ricci said.

He said the heart developed a large clot in one of its ventricles. "We had no choice" but to take the heart out, Ricci said. "We decided to use a machine that's commercially available which was implanted in D'Zhana's chest and kept her alive for almost four months."

Ricci admitted that the first two months were "quite difficult" because she was very sick, however D'Zhana recovered and Ricci and his team were able to proceed with the second heart transplant operation - a true miracle.
  • CBSNews

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