Your Health: History-making patient is thriving

A year after surgeons performed the world’s first combination heart transplant and thymus tissue implantation, their young patient is a thriving medical miracle
Published: Oct. 7, 2022 at 5:30 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - A year after surgeons performed the world’s first combination heart transplant and thymus tissue implantation, their young patient is a thriving medical miracle.

Little Easton Sinnamon came into the world with a broken heart that had six defects that were too severe for doctors to fix.

“If we didn’t go the transplant route, he wouldn’t be here today,” said Kaitlyn Sinnamon.

Doctors also determined that Easton had an immune system that wasn’t working.

“We found out that he didn’t have T cells,” said Dr. Joseph W. Turek. “T cells are something that produced by the thymus. They helped to fight infection.”

Turek and his team proposed an investigational procedure that had been pioneered at Duke University Hospital, but never performed in humans before - a combination heart transplant and thymus tissue implantation. Doctors believed the implanted thymus cells would reduce the need for anti-rejection drugs.

Kaitlyn Sinnamon said it wasn’t a difficult choice for their family to make since the thymus implantation posed little risk to their son.

When Easton was 6 months old, a donor heart became available. Surgeons also sent thymus tissue from the same donor to a lab for processing. The heart transplant was first.

“We went back to the operating room two weeks later, and we did the cultured thymic tissue implantation,” Turek said.

The doctors and Easton’s family saw the difference immediately.

“He was no longer this kind of bluish, grayish color, not getting enough oxygen,” Kaitlyn Sinnamon said.

Easton left Duke hospital after seven months, growing stronger at home, where he not only celebrated his first birthday, but another one-year milestone.

“We call it his heart birthday, his heart-versary,” Kaityln Sinnamon said. “August 6th was when he received his transplant.”

She said doctors have just started reducing one of his anti-rejection medications, as they initially hoped they’d be able to do.

More: Health stories

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