Sumika’s Journey: Japanese Girl Recovering After Successful Transplant

By: Andrea Kunicky


The Transport Team at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC transports patients daily from throughout the region and across the country. But in March 2014, they embarked on their longest transport yet – to Osaka University Hospital in Japan.The team transported 15-month-old Sumika Nagao, who was in need of a heart transplant due to her battle with congenital cardiomyopathy, an inherited heart disorder that can be fatal.

The transport team, consisting of five Children’s Hospital staff members ranging from a biomedical engineer to a pediatric heart surgeon who served as a medical translator, picked up Sumika and her family. They took a highly-specialized medically equipped jet – the Phoenix Air Gulf Stream III – the only one of its kind in the United States used for medical trips and distances of this type.

Sumika was also one of the youngest patients to be transported from Japan on a ventricular assist device (VAD), which takes over the pumping action of the heart and offers lifesaving support, most often acting as a bridge to keep patients alive until donor hearts become available for transplantation. After the 16 hour flight from Japan to the United States, the family arrived at the Allegheny County Airport and were immediately transported to Children’s by ambulance.

The family received the news they had been waiting for in late May 2014, that Sumika would be getting a new heart. On May 30, Sumika received her heart and is now doing exceptionally well. The family is staying in Pittsburgh for a few months for follow up appointments and monitoring.

For more information on the Transport Team at Children’s, visit here