Concert supports heart transplant fund

click to enlarge Concert supports heart transplant fund
(Noelle Haro-Garcia/Contributor)
Clayton Desmond, Julia Santino (holding picture of Giovanni), Andrew Terranella and Luciano Giovanni Terranella. Santino and Terranella are the parents of Giovanni Terranella, who died after a heart transplant.

Giovanni James Terranella died at age 22 months from coronary artery disease after a heart transplant.

In honor of Giovanni and to raise funds for Phoenix Children’s Hospital, his family — parents Andrew Terranella and Julia Santino, and uncle Clayton Desmond — is hosting the fundraiser “Hearts and Guitars” on Friday, Nov. 17, with Rollingdusk, Tonight’s Sunshine, Weekend Lovers and Daddy Banjo.

The evening also features a silent auction, products from local vendors and artists in the Plaza of the Historic Hotel Congress.

Giovanni died on Oct. 27, 2017. He received care at Phoenix Children’s Hospital after being diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a rare congenital heart disease.

“Giovanni’s heart didn’t form right,” Andrew Terranella said.

“A day or two after being born, he had a complex surgery to repair that. It didn’t go very well. When he was 2 months old, he had a heart transplant. He was listed for a heart transplant at 11 a.m. and at 7 p.m., (the hospital) called us, saying they had a heart. That just never happens. He had his transplant the next morning.”

Giovanni did well until he was about 20 months old, when his heart failed.

“We’ve stayed in touch with his cardiologist, and we subsequently realized, through an autopsy, that he had coronary vasculopathy,” Terranella said.

Cardiac allograft vasculopathy is a condition that affects transplanted hearts. It causes the blood vessels supplying blood to the heart muscle itself to become narrowed and eventually blocked.

In response to Giovanni’s death, the family founded the Giovanni James Terranella Heart Transplant Research Fund, which had raised $104,215 as of Nov. 11.

“Since we started the research fund six years ago, we have raised over $100,000 toward our goal of $200,000,” Desmond said.

“All of the funds donated through this site will go to Gio’s fund to support the amazing work of Dr. Steve Zangwill and his team of researchers, who are trying to improve survival for heart transplant patients. Funding his pioneering work on the causes of coronary artery disease, cytokine patterns and autoantibodies in transplant patients will ensure that other children like Gio will have a better chance at survival.”

The research projects are as follows:

• Cytokine patterns in the early period following heart transplant: In this study, the researchers will measure a broad array of cytokines (substances in the blood that control a wide array of immune and inflammatory activity), first to describe the typical patterns and then to see if there are any patterns or cytokine signatures that may predict early difficult problems after transplant. With a growing array of new drugs that target specific cytokines, this pilot research could potentially lead to new diagnostic and even treatment strategies to predict, prevent and treat these problems.

• Auto-antibodies in pediatric heart transplantation: They will look at antibodies formed against self-proteins in heart transplant recipients. Limited literature in adult heart transplant recipients suggests these antibodies can form following heart transplant and may contribute to rejection and coronary allograft vasculopathy. There is a paucity of data in children. The team will look at a much broader array of antibodies than previously examined, and this may open the door to better, more specific screening tests and targets for treatment.

Hearts & Guitars Benefit

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 17

WHERE: Plaza of the Historic Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress Street, Tucson
COST: $10 in advance; $15 at the door