Baby Fae

Loma Linda University Health

The Legacy of Baby Fae

Her name was Stephanie Fae Beauclair. The world knew her as Baby Fae. Born in 1984 with hypoplastic left heart syndrome-a fatal heart defect-Stephanie Fae was only given weeks to live. Her mother, Teresa, had two options: She could leave Stephanie Fae at the hospital to die or she could take her home to die.

Leonard Bailey, MD, was one of a handful of physician researchers interested in saving infants born with fatal heart defects. He chose to complete his residency at a facility specializing in heart transplantation in the hopes of applying that knowledge to saving these doomed infants.

The paths of Dr. Bailey and Teresa Beauclair crossed at an opportune time. Dr. Bailey contacted Teresa and invited her to meet with him and hear about his research on cross-species transplantation. After their meeting, Teresa began an intense and lengthy process of deciding whether to go ahead, signing a series of releases at each step.

When Baby Fae’s mother got a cold and couldn’t be by her daughter’s side she read nursery rhymes to her over the phone.

The historic surgery took place on October 26, 1984, when Stephanie Fae received the heart of a baboon. She not only survived the surgery, but thrived for more than two weeks. Then, for reasons that remain a mystery to this day, she began to deteriorate. One by one, her essential organs shut down until, on November 16, 1984, she succumbed and passed away. Soon after Stephanie Fae's death, Teresa spoke with Dr. Bailey and asked him to carry on with his research. "I asked him not to let Stephanie Fae's life be wasted," she remembers.

Within a year, Dr. Bailey performed the first infant-to-infant heart transplantation on Baby Moses, whose actual name is Eddie. Now 24 years old, Eddie holds the distinction of being the oldest living infant heart transplant recipient.

His life and the lives of hundreds of other infant heart recipients are part of Baby Fae's lasting legacy.