The Heart that Travelled

Pippa McCreery @ 2023-02-22 12:02:39 +1000

Merlo is pleased to support The Common Good, a division of Prince Charles Hospital, dedicated to supporting the work of a team of passionate researchers to help people live healthier lives for longer. 

Heart Disease is one of The Common Good's areas of focus, and below is a special story that sums up the importance of their work in this special area of the healthcare sector.


Alexandra's Story

Early in 2022, 23-year-old Alexandra Moroianu woke up barely able to walk, with nausea and riddled with pain. She had been out the night before with her boyfriend and friends, nothing unusual, just a night of fun.

From there, things got worse. Alexandra checked into a Perth hospital, she was in severe heart failure, with no idea how or why. She was told the left side of her heart was functioning at a fraction of the normal rate and the right side wasn’t working much better.

Alexandra was sent home with medication and a life vest, which would shock her heart if it started to beat unpredictably.

Three weeks later Alexandra was back in the hospital, with doctors telling her a heart transplant was needed urgently. They were at a loss as to why her heart was failing, what they did know was that she would not survive long without a heart transplant.

Alexandra was placed on the transplant list, however, in Western Australia hearts are donated about once every four or five days, and not all of them are suitable.

A transplanted heart starts to deteriorate as soon as it leaves the body, with five hours as the ideal amount of time to get from donor to recipient. The closest donor to Alexandra was on the east coast, too far away for it to be viable.

Alexandra Moroianu Heart transplant

A clinical trial is saving lives

An invention by Swedish professor Sig Steen and augmented by Australian doctors has drastically changed the world of organ transplants.  

The Living Heart Project is a joint research project by The Prince Charles Hospital’s Critical Care Group, Sydney's St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne's The Alfred Hospital and also supported by The Common Good which worked on a device keeping hearts viable for longer.

The Hypothermic Ex Vivo Perfusion (HEVP) device cools and passes liquid through donated hearts with an oxygenated solution which allows it to remain outside of the body for longer.

This means that all hearts donated within Australia can be used in any transplant program in the country and none of the hearts will go to waste.

The gift of life

Alexandra stayed in the hospital for six weeks waiting for a heart and thanks to many hours of research and perseverance by The Living Heart Project, she received a donor heart from the east coast.

The heart that now beats inside of Alexandra holds the world record for the greatest distance a donor heart that was successfully transplanted has ever travelled.

For the last 50 years, donor’s hearts have only been viable for up to 5 hours, now with this new technology they can last for longer, the maximum to date is just over 8 hours.

The Living Heart Project has saved 36 lives and they are hoping for many more.

Read more here about this world’s first technology.