SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – The first-ever pediatric heart transplant at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in San Francisco may have just saved a young Bay Area girl’s life.

It’s been tough for 11-year-old Andrea to keep up with other students during gym class in Walnut Creek. “I would feel short of breath, I would need to take a break more often than other people would.”

Andrea has a rare form of cardiomyopathy, which is a genetic disease that makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood. But thanks to a new team of doctors at UCSF, she has a new outlook and a new heart.

“For Andrea’s family to trust us to be our very first heart transplant program here, we needed to be able to do this and say we can do this,” said Dr. Jeffrey Gossett Director of the Pediatric Heart Transplant Program.

The team successfully performed the surgery on July 1. Prior to Andrea’s surgery, UCSF treated pediatric cardiac patients but referred them to other centers in the region – including Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford – for transplants. Benioff Children’s Hospital opened in 2015 in San Francisco’s Mission Bay. It then spent more than a year putting together a highly-skilled team to make up the Pediatric Heart Transplant Program.

“I’m happy that I got through with it,” said Andrea about the surgery, adding that she’s looking forward to going home and seeing her friends

On Monday, the hospital celebrated with Andrea’s family. They are moving to a transitional home nearby so doctors can monitor her for two weeks.

“It’s just the beginning of the road also, it was very, very stressful,” said her father, Calin. “But we’re very happy that the outcome has been this beautiful princess you see here who is feeling good.”

Because Andrea also has a heart rhythm problem that complicates her condition, doctors said she had a 30 percent chance of dying within one year. Now she has a 95 percent chance of survival.

“Activity level, functionally – they’ll get back to normal and lead a good functioning life,” said Dr. Pete Kouretas, Surgical Director of the program.

Doctors perform about 500 heart transplants in the U.S. each year. As many as 100 children die every year waiting for a transplant.

“Andrea was very lucky she got a heart faster than average,” said Gossett. “It took about a month and a half and that had, in part, to do with her blood type.”

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