WASHINGTON: A two-year-old boy whose heart stopped 10 times has made medical history after becoming the youngest person in the world to be fitted with an artificial lung.
Owen Stark was a seemingly happy, healthy little boy until he collapsed during a family shopping trip near his home in Missouri, U.S.
Paramedics fought to keep the brave toddler alive when his heart stopped almost ten times as he was rushed to hospital by air ambulance.
The youngster was diagnosed with Pulmonary Artery Hypertension, which causes the heart and lungs to rapidly shut down. It is common in pensioners, but extremely rare in children, affecting just one in 100,000.
The fragile toddler needed an urgent lung transplant to save his life and was put on a heart-lung bypass machine as the search for a donor began.
More than two weeks on the machine could cause irreversible damage so doctors at St Louis Children's Hospital fitted Owen with a German-built artificial lung.
The device - called NovaLungs LA - was placed outside the body and worked by stimulating Owen's own lungs to take in more oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. It was the first time the procedure had ever been used on someone so young.
Owen's father Justin, 32, said: 'Owen kept flat-lining, his heart stopped several times when he was first taken to hospital.
'It's without doubt the worst experience I have ever been through and could ever imagine going through.
'Doctors told us Owen was in the worst condition they had ever seen and to prepare for the worst.
'We thought we were going to lose him for good.'
Doctors predict the toddler who has now even been taken off the transplant list should live a long and happy life.
Owen's mother Tonya, 29, said: 'His life expectancy has gone from a few days to a few weeks and now years. It's a miracle.'
Proud father Justin added: 'There is some consolation in knowing Owen's procedure could help other children in the long run but we would have given anything not to be the first parents to try this.
'It's absolutely amazing. We had no choice really, it was horrific, it was either going to work or that would be it.'
Dr Mark Grady, a paediatric cardiologist at the hospital, said Owen had made a miraculous recovery despite being given little chance of survival without a transplant.
He said: 'I don't think there is any question about it. This absolutely saved his life. His recovery is nothing short of amazing.
'Now he could be going home within a month which we never ever thought would be possible.
'This potentially opens the way for younger patients and even newborns everywhere to be fitted with artificial lungs.'
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