Baby Fae -- Do You Remember Her?

Cynthia Dermody
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Photo by abjbrewer

Some of us may not remember Baby Fae. I recalled the name, but when I read that this week marks the 25th anniversary of her landmark surgery, I had to do some digging to refresh on who she was and what it was all about.

I was just a little kid when the baby, Stephanie Fae Beauclair, was born, certainly many years from momhood myself. But now that I read up on it I wonder if the perspective I had back then would have been different from the one I have now.

According to the National Ledger, Stephanie Fae Beauclair was a premature baby and suffered a condition known as hypoplastic left-heart syndrome, or a partially developed heart. It was untreatable.

Doctors from Loma Linda University Medical Center in California transplanted the heart of a young baboon into the 14-day-old girl, causing a furor among animal rights activists. Even the medical community was sharply divided on it.

This wasn't the first time than an animal heart was transplanted into a human, but all those patients died after a few days. Baby Fae survived three weeks before passing, and helped with future transplants. Over 300 children receive heart transplants every year, according to the Ledger.

If Baby Fae were happening right now, would you have supported an experimental surgery that sacrificed an animal life for the slim possibility that a human one could be saved? Would you have felt differently before you had kids of your own?

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