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Rossland teen eager to get back to friends and school

A 14-year-old Rossland girl is the first pediatric patient in Canada to receive a leading-edge heart pump.

A 14-year-old Rossland girl is the first pediatric patient in Canada to receive a leading-edge heart pump.

Kolby Zanier received the device that helps her heart pump blood through her body at the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton in August and now is eager to get back to her Grade 10 classmates at Rossland Secondary School.

“I’m looking forward to going back to school and can’t wait to see my friends again,” said Zanier, in a news release.

She was considered suited for the device because its smaller pump would still provide her body with ample blood flow and its portability would allow her and her family to return home.

Zanier was four years old when she was diagnosed with Alstrom Syndrome, a rare genetic disease that can affect vision, hearing, kidney and liver function, and can also cause heart failure.

“For patients on HeartWare, the greatest benefit is that they can be discharged from the hospital and return to everyday life,” Dr. Holger Buchholz, director of the Pediatric Artificial Heart Program at Stollery, said in the release.

The HeartWare’s external mechanisms, including a controller and battery, weighs less than four pounds and can be contained in a carrying case worn on a patient’s belt or over a shoulder.

The pump implanted near the heart uses two small motors to remove blood from the left side of the heart and pump it into the aorta, the large blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. A cable exits the patient’s skin and is connected to a battery-powered controller.

Her family was blown away by the tremendous outpouring of support and generosity from home this summer, as residents organized several fundraisers for the family to offset the costs of taking time off work and spending time away from home while their daughter was in the hospital.

“The communities of Rossland and Trail have been behind us in an incredible way,” said her father Barry Zanier. “I can’t even begin to describe the feeling—so many people have chipped in.”

Zanier and her parents travelled to Stollery this past July for a heart transplant assessment and, during that visit, she was diagnosed with severe heart and kidney failure.

For more than six weeks, she remained in Stollery’s intensive care unit while her kidney function restored itself. Doctors determined her heart was badly damaged and on Aug. 28 Dr. Ivan Rebeyka implanted Zanier with HeartWare during a five-hour procedure.

“The doctors are the top docs in their field, the nurses are amazing and attentive to detail, and the teachers at the Stollery School were also very accommodating,” said her dad.

Zanier and her family will decide whether she will remain on the device long-term or be placed on a wait list for a heart transplant.

HeartWare is approved for use in Europe and is currently in the regulatory stages of approval for use in Canada. Alberta Health Services (AHS) doctors obtained special access from Health Canada to use the product.