Human Interest

Baby with half a heart defies odds after doctors refuse to help him

In 2017, Chuck and Tiffany Palmer were devastated to learn that their preborn son Jack had just half a heart and would likely die before his first birthday. They searched for a doctor to help save their baby boy, but even the best doctors in the country turned them away.

“We didn’t know what to do other than we weren’t going to give up,” Chuck Palmer told local NBC news.

Finally, the couple from Kansas City found hope with the medical team at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Doctors there agreed to help attempt to save their son’s life.

“They gave us that hope that had been gone for so long,” said Tiffany Palmer. “From the beginning, Jack has been defying odds. Jack is a miracle. Every day that Jack is alive we don’t take for granted.”

Jack became the first baby with half a heart to receive a heart and lung transplant

Dr. Pirooz Eghtesady performed a heart and lung transplant on Jack when he was just five months old, making him the youngest person to receive a transplant for his condition. He is also thought to be the first infant to ever get a heart transplant across blood types.

“It’s a tough problem,” said Eghtesady. “People have been working on this for a long time, for decades and historically again the outcome has been less than 25 percent that have made it to their first birthday. He introduces a new future for us. He’s a miracle in many ways, but it opens the door for many other babies and kids just like Jack.”

According to NBC, three months after his successful surgery, Jack is doing well and is preparing to go home.

“They saved Jack, so find the hospital that’s perfect for you,” said Tiffany Palmer. “He’s thriving. He’s growing. He’s active. We’re just three months post-transplant and how far he’s come is just amazing to watch.”


If Jack is able to survive with his transplanted heart and lungs until his first birthday in January, his odds of surviving longer increase by 50 percent. If he is able to live with his new organs until age 12, doctors believe he can live a full life.

“This moment was never a possibility and here he his,” said Tiffany Palmer. “Here we are getting ready to go home to our real home.”

It’s heartbreaking that doctors were unwilling to help little Jack and offered no hope to his parents. When doctors are willing to try, it helps us move medicine further into the future, helping to save lives that were once thought to be hopeless. As the first infant to receive a heart and lung transplant for half a heart and the first infant to receive a transplant from someone with a different blood type, Jack has opened the doors for future children and changed the way doctors treat these patients.

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