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Sunday, Nov. 9, 2008

Parents of girl with sick heart seek public help


Staff writer

The parents of a 16-year-old girl suffering from a serious heart disease sought public donations Friday so she can afford a heart transplant.

News photo
Seeking a heart her size: Mei Sano, 16, rests on her bed at the University of Tokyo Hospital in Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo, on Oct. 6. COURTESY OF KAZUYA AND TOMOKO SANO

The girl, Mei Sano, has been suffering from dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) for nearly six years. In DCM, the heart becomes enlarged, which stretches out and weakens its muscles and prevents its from pumping efficiently, they said.

Columbia University Medical Center has agreed to accept Mei, but an overseas transplant costs almost ¥200 million, her doctor, Minoru Ono of the University of Tokyo Hospital, said at a news conference.

The reason it costs so much is because she had an operation to install ventricular assist devices (VAD) in her left and right ventricles three months ago.

"No patient with VADs in both the left and right ventricles in Japan has received a heart transplant overseas," Ono said.

Ono said the longer she uses VADs, the higher the risk that a complication, such as an infectious disease, cerebral infarction or cerebral hemorrhage, will strike.

Mei, named after a character in Hayao Miyazaki's animation "My Neighbor Totoro," managed to enter high school in Meguro Ward, Tokyo, despite her condition, Mei's father Kazuya Sano said.

But her condition deteriorated in June, and she has been in the hospital ever since, he added.

"Our doctor told us that overseas transplant is the only way to save her," he said.

Since Mei, who weighs only 31 kg, is small, it is difficult to find donor hearts her size in Japan, because children under the age of 15 are not legally allowed to be organ donors here, her father explained.

Before she was diagnosed with DCM, Mei was healthy, he said.

"She was really healthy, but her face started to swell, and she became sick when she was 10 . . . Mei told us to give up on her because she doesn't want to cause troubles to us. But we cannot. We want to do everything we can to save her," he said.

The group hopes to raise ¥197.5 million by the end of the year.

Donations are being accepted through bank transfer. The account number is 0039339 at the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ's Kyodo branch, 1107173 at Mizuho Bank's Kyodo branch, 6833389 in Sumitomo Mitsui Bank's Kyodo branch, 1065258 in Meguro Shinkin Bank's Umegaoka branch, and 54352151 at branch number 10150 for Japan Post Bank. All accounts are under the name "Mei-chan wo Sukuu Kai."

For more information please view the Save Mei Web site at www.nit-tokyo-th.ed.jp/save-mei



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