TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A health technology company and a nonprofit funding pediatric heart transplant research are working together to provide more comfort for young patients.

Paragonix Technologies transports organs, including hearts, all over the country. CEO Dr. Lisa Anderson explained the heart can only live outside of the body for four hours. The company creates devices to make sure organs are kept correctly through the transportation process.

“Many of those transplants are actually for kids. And with the partnership with Enduring Hearts, we really wanted to provide comfort to the children in the hospital that have really undergone major surgeries,” said Dr. Anderson.

Paragonix paired up with nonprofit Enduring Hearts in February, American Heart Month, in the ongoing “Huggable Pillows Program.”

The program provides huggable “cough” pillows to children at over 30 transplant hospitals nationwide, including to children at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg. The pillows are child-size and designed for comfort in many different ways.

“One, it’s providing a physical relief [to patients] who have an incision in their chest and then for those children who maybe just want to use it for comfort, just to hug it,” said CEO of Enduring Hearts, Carolyn Salvador. “Maybe they’re taking it in the car to a doctor’s office or they’re just stressed and strained about being different and they’re using that.” 

Prior to the Huggable Pillows Program and in addition to its research, Salvatore said Enduring Hearts would provide heart transplant families with gas cards. The nonprofit helped out during the height of the coronavirus pandemic with temporary food assistance and tote bags for parents living in hospital rooms.

More than 40,000 children a year are born with congenital heart defects, the primary reason for pediatric heart transplants.

Salvatore explained transplants are not a cure, with the average transplant lasting 17 years. Enduring Hearts is primarily focused on research and raising funds for research to increase longevity and improve the quality of life for children with a transplanted heart.

“For pediatric heart transplantation, it’s pretty new. It’s only been around for 25 years. So Enduring Hearts’ goal is to make the first heart transplant last a lifetime,” Salvatore said.

You can find out more on Enduring Hearts research and support for families, as well as more about Paragonix Technologies online.