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Doctors Save Baby’s Life with Miniature Pacemaker

One very small patient gave the doctors at Children's Hospital Boston in the northeastern state of Massachusetts a true challenge. The boy, just hours old, was suffering from heart failure. Now he is the smallest newborn ever to get a permanent pacemaker.

Angel Castaneda was born by caesarian section, a month and half premature. He weighed barely one kilogram. Doctors were forced to deliver Angel after noticing that he had not grown in over two weeks.

Angel's father, Louis Morales, says seeing the size of his son was a shock, he was so tiny. “I didn't know what to think. I actually sat there and cried. It was hard,” he said.

When Angel's heart rate was examined, it was pumping at only 40 beats per minute. A normal newborn's heart rate is 120 beats per minute. His heart was failing, and he needed a pacemaker to survive.

Dr. Mark Alexander of Children's Hospital Boston, said, “Yes, this child could have died. The entire point of delivery was to allow him to get a pacemaker so he could be managed effectively”.

Angel received a miniature pacemaker. The special model is not much bigger than a coin. The pacemaker's purpose is to generate electrical impulses that continually stimulate the heart to beat normally. The device is normally implanted just above the stomach, but Angel's had to be put on his diaphragm, his only muscle strong enough to hold it. The pacemaker is working well.

Dr. Alexander explained the outcome. “His heart is squeezing beautifully, and once we gave him a heart rate of 120, it seems like it was doing a nice job for him”.

Angel will need a pacemaker for the rest of his life. He will get a larger one in a few years, and a new one every five to ten years after that. A small price to pay for his life. Angel is now gaining weight. And doctors say that the smallest baby to ever receive a pacemaker could be ready to leave the hospital in a matter of weeks.