News: Youngest Alberta lung transplant recipient going home

Published in the May 14th issue of The Edmonton Sun. News

Youngest Alberta lung transplant recipient going home

Edmonton Sun

After nearly nine months in hospital, the youngest child to ever receive a lung transplant in Alberta has finally gone home.

Eight-year-old Tahir Asif, who was dying from clogged lungs caused by cystic fibrosis, successfully received a double-lung transplant at the end of April.

He left the Stollery Children’s Hospital Thursday.

“It was really hard to breathe before, but now it’s easy,” said a smiling Tahir. “Much easier.”

Tahir had been making regular trips to the hospital since last August to treat his condition. He carried an oxygen tank with him and in March needed to be put on a ventilator 24-hours a day in order to breathe as his health spiralled downhill.

“Tahir was dying. He was stuck on a ventilator and really only had a few months to live at most,” said Tahir’s transplant surgeon, Dr. John Mullen.

Mullen and a nine-member transplant team spent seven hours operating on Tahir on April 21.

“It was a little more challenging than our usual ones, but still went very smoothly,” Mullen said. “And he has had a very, very smooth and rapid recovery.”

Tahir told reporters he couldn’t wait to get back to his Riverbend home and play at the nearby park.

“Going on the swings and slides and monkey bars,” he shyly said. “Before I couldn’t go on the slide because I needed an oxygen tank, but now I can go on the slide.”

Tahir’s doctors said it was difficult finding a matching donor, noting the process is much harder with children because of their small size and complications that could occur as the child gets older.

“We were quite concerned that we were not going to find a donor for him,” Mullen said. “There are not enough donors.”

“So many people are waiting for lung and heart transplants and sometimes they just die because they can’t find anybody,” said Tahir’s father Asif Jutt, who has been touched by his son’s ordeal.

“We should all think about signing our cards to sign over our organs.”

Tahir’s parents are hoping their son will be healthy enough to go back to school in the fall. He would be entering Grade 3 at Brander Gardens Elementary School.

Mullen says although the new lungs don’t completely cure Tahir’s cystic fibrosis, he could very healthily live on into adulthood.

“His lifespan is unlimited at the moment, but we don’t know for sure.”

Cystic fibrosis is a life-shortening hereditary disease where mucus builds up and clogs the lungs, causing infection.

The first pediatric lung transplant at the Stollery was performed in 2002. Only four other lung transplants involving patients under the age of 17 have been done in Alberta.

The Stollery Children’s Hospital is home to one of only two programs across Canada that are specifically dedicated to lung transplants for children.

Tahir’s family, including his 10-year-old brother and six-year-old sister, moved to Edmonton from Yellowknife last summer in order to be closer to the Stollery.

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