In a historic, first-ever milestone for Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone, a team of pediatric cardiac surgeons successfully replaced the heart of Maz Zisan, an 18-year-old from Brooklyn Heights with end-stage heart failure on August 28, 2021.
Maz had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a rare condition in which the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick, making it hard for his heart to pump blood to the rest of his body. It’s estimated that 1 in every 500 people have HCM, but a large percentage of patients are undiagnosed because many people with the disease have few, if any, symptoms, according to the American Heart Association. As HCM progresses, it can cause problems in the heart’s electrical system, resulting in life-threatening abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) or heart failure.
“Heart transplantation was the only lifesaving option for Maz to have an improved second chance at life,” says Rakesh Singh, MD, medical director of the Pediatric Heart Failure and Transplant Program, pediatric cardiologist, and associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics at NYU Langone. “The successful completion of our first transplant is a testament to the teamwork within Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital.”
What Led to the Patient’s Heart Transplant
Since Maz was 14 years old, he regularly worked out at the gym, taking on a special interest in mixed martial arts. “Over time, I noticed how quickly I would become short of breath and slow down in comparison to my friends in cardio-related activities,” recalls Maz. “I would take pre-workout supplements and drink high amounts of coffee to try and keep up, not thinking much of it.”
In December, 2019, Maz suddenly fainted when leaving an SAT practice test at his high school. He was rushed to a local hospital in Brooklyn and received a diagnosis of HCM, a shocking finding for Maz and his family. Since his out-of-the-blue diagnosis at age 16, he’s had to sit on the sidelines as his friends played sports, worked out, and did normal activities that tired him much more quickly than others and led him to experience continued episodes of palpitations, dizziness, and passing out.
Shortly after his diagnosis, Maz came to Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital to see Frank Cecchin, MD, the Andrall E. Pearson Professor of Pediatric Cardiology and director of the Division of Pediatric Cardiology. Dr. Cecchin performed a procedure to place a defibrillator that would protect Maz from life-threatening arrhythmias and started him on cardiac medications to manage the condition. In June, 2020, Dr. Cecchin referred Maz to Dr. Singh within the Pediatric Heart Failure and Transplant Program to manage his ongoing heart failure symptoms. Dr. Singh led the team in evaluating Maz to see if he would be a good candidate for a transplant.
“It was clear after months of monitoring Maz that he was quite limited in doing basic things around the house and outside. A treadmill stress test in March showed a significant decline in his exercise capacity and given his continued heart failure symptoms despite maximal medical management of his HCM, the only option for improved quality of life was a heart transplant,” says Dr. Singh, who listed Maz on the transplant waiting list on April 9, 2021.
On August 26, 2021, Maz and his family got a call that a donor organ was available. The transplant procedure was performed by T.K. Susheel Kumar, MD, surgical director of the Pediatric Heart Failure and Transplant Program, pediatric cardiac surgeon, and associate professor in the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery; and Nader Moazami, MD, surgical director of adult heart transplantation at the NYU Langone Transplant Institute and chief of the Division of Heart and Lung Transplant and Mechanical Circulatory Support.
“He is healthy and going home thanks to the excellent care he received at every level especially within the Pediatric Heart Failure and Transplant Program here at NYU Langone. I am grateful to everyone that took care of Maz and feel fortunate to be a part of a team that constantly strives for the best outcomes for each of our patients,” says Dr. Kumar. “It was our privilege to see this transplant through, and I couldn’t be happier for Maz and his family.”
Maz is looking forward to starting his first semester of college, where he will study mechanical engineering, and getting back into mixed martial arts with his new heart.
A Leader in the Care for Children with the Most Complex Cardiac Needs
The Pediatric Heart Failure and Transplant Program, part of the Pediatric Congenital Heart Program at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital, was established in September, 2020. A national leader in pediatric and congenital cardiac surgery, the Pediatric Congenital Heart Program has a 99 percent survival rate, exceeding those of the largest programs in the Northeast region and national average, according to statistics from the recently validated Society of Thoracic Surgeons data. The program uses a team-based approach to care for patients and families affected by HCM and other inherited cardiomyopathies.
“This milestone at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital underlines our commitment to providing excellent, comprehensive care to all patients with our advanced expertise to care for children with the most complex cardiac needs,” says Catherine S. Manno, MD, the Pat and John Rosenwald Professor of Pediatrics and chair of the Department of Pediatrics.