Smallest baby waiting for a heart op in Europe undergoes transplant surgery at just eight weeks

Charlie Douthwaite’s grateful parents praise family who lost their little one and made ‘brave decision’ to give tiny boy a second chance of life


Mum tells of joy after baby gets lifesaving heart transplant

The smallest baby in the EU waiting for a heart transplant has undergone his life-changing operation.

Tiny eight-week-old Charlie Douthwaite has now received the new heart needed to save his life.

His grateful parents have paid tribute to the family who had lost their young child – which gave their Charlie a second chance at life.

Mum Tracie Wright has spoken of her gratitude to the donor family after Charlie’s successful surgery at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle.

“They are the bravest, courageous people out there,” she said.

“They thought of somebody else in their darkest time.

“Where they found the strength to do that, I don’t know but I’ll be forever thankful to them.

Tracie Wright with baby son Charlie, who has had a heart transplant at the Freeman Hospital (Image: Newcastle Chronicle)

“I just want to say thank you but it doesn’t seem like enough.”

Because Charlie’s chest is so small, his donor heart had to come from another baby of a similar size.

Information about the donor is limited but they could have come from anywhere in the European Union.

Tracie, 30, and partner Steven Douthwaite, 32, say that Charlie is still recovering from the major surgery but he has responded well so far.

Tracie said: “He’s doing really well.

“His skin colour’s amazing and he’s circulating his blood all by himself.

Charlie has a long way to go and is not out of the woods yet (Image: Newcastle Chronicle)
He had the operation at an NHS hospital (Image: Newcastle Chronicle)

“It feels like a miracle, we got the transplant at the perfect time.”

Before the donor was found, Charlie has been placed on an Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation machine to support both his heart and lungs.

Despite the successful transplant, the family, from Fenham, are aware of the long road ahead.

Mum-of-three Tracie said: “He’s not out of the woods yet.

“It’s been a rollercoaster and there’s still a long way to go.

“We’re just taking each day as it comes.

“We can’t wait to get him home and just be a family.”

Charlie’s donor heart could have come from anywhere in the EU (Image: Newcastle Chronicle)
Tracie Wright with baby son Charlie recovering in hospital (Image: Newcastle Chronicle)

Consultant surgeon Fabrizio De Rita carried out the surgery on Charlie and says he has been making good progress since the op.

He said: “Charlie was a newborn when he came to us.

“He was in a critical condition and required an operation early in life.

“His prospects had not been as good as expected.

“The function of the heart was impaired to the point he required mechanical support to maintain his blood circulating into the body.

“It’s a completely different story now.

“From the surgery point of view we are happy about the transplant but there’s a long journey ahead.

“The operation is part of this journey and all the treatment and medication that the patient needs are just as important.”

Charlie’s heart problem was first diagnosed during Tracie’s pregnancy at her 20-week scan.

Doctors realised her new baby had hypoplastic left heart syndrome condition – which means the left side of the organ is underdeveloped and cannot work properly.

He also had a narrow aorta with a hole in and another hole between two of the chambers of the heart.

Just three days after he was born on October 2 at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, he underwent his first open heart surgery.

Tracie and Steven, also parents to Jamie, seven, and 10-year-old Ryan, say they “couldn’t be any more proud” of their little warrior.

As well as thanking the donor family, Tracie also paid tribute to the NHS staff at the Freeman.

“I need to say a personal thank you surgeons in here because they are amazing.

“The absolute best of the NHS is in this building.” Protection Status