Baby Fay

Published: 1984
Play Audio Archive Story - UPI

Bob Futz: What began as a startling announcement at the Loma Linda University Medical Center ended three weeks later at a memorial service at the University Church just a short distance away. But during those weeks, the infant known as Baby Fay captured the attention and hearts of the world and made medical history.

The infant known as Baby Fay was born in the desert town of Barstow, California with a heart defect that's fatal within days. The parents chose an experimental treatment, and surgeon Leonard Bailey placed inside the infant the transplanted heart of a baboon …

Dr. Leonard Bailey: "Baby Fay's experience in the brief month or so has been a uniquely human one."

Bob Futz: There was a storm of protest from animal-rights groups complaining about the sacrifice of the baboon, from doctors expressing concern that Bailey's research hadn't been more widely known and reviewed; but the operation had gone well at first. Baby Fay made good progress, and pictures of her made her case close to the hearts of millions. After two weeks, though, the infant's body began to reject the baboon heart inside her, much as others so young have rejected human heart transplants, and 20 days after the surgery she died.

Bailey said the transplanted baboon heart didn't act very differently from a human one, and out of the experience should come not only sadness, but hope …

Dr. Leonard Bailey: "For her part, I and my colleagues believe Baby Fay has opened new vistas for all, including the as-yet-unborn infants with similar lethal heart disease."

Bob Futz: Bailey says he'll try a baboon heart transplant again.

Bob Futz, Los Angeles.