Double Lung Transplant Restores Childhood for 12-Year-Old
Maria, now 12 years old, was born with cystic fibrosis, a condition that clogs the lungs, leads to life-threatening infections, and hinders the body’s ability to absorb food. Because of her illness, Maria weighed as little as 50 pounds in the months prior to her surgery, and had to be home-schooled starting at age 8 to protect her tender immune system. Even a simple laugh triggered severe coughing spasms, prompting doctors at Packard Children’s to give her an oxygen tank for 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the last two years.
Fast forward to October 23, 2012, when Maria was officially put on the transplant list for new lungs. Only two weeks later, her mother, Marianela Mendoza, got the call that would change her daughter’s life forever: a set of donor lungs became available for her next-to-youngest child. Maria is the seventh in a family of eight children.
“I was nervous, anxious, and terrified,” Maria said as she remembers the hours leading up to her surgery on November 7.
Packard Children’s has one of the nation’s few pediatric lung transplant programs, and is part of one of the largest and most successful transplant centers for children in the U.S. Maria was one of three Packard Children’s patients to receive a double lung transplant in 2012.
Said Carol Conrad, MD, the medical director for the pediatric heart-lung and lung transplant programs, who has treated Maria since she was only six months old: “Maria has always been a really remarkable patient. She is such a new girl after her transplant; she can even run up and down stairs now.” Katsuhide Maeda, MD, who performed Maria’s transplant, said that her surgery was “very successful.”
“Doing a lung transplant is a complicated surgery, but we have so many excellent people with extraordinary experience in multidisciplinary areas that we can provide phenomenal outcomes at Packard Children’s,” Conrad said.
Now equipped with a new set of lungs, seventh-grade Maria, who loves Legos and arts and crafts, is happy to start 2013. She and her family will always give thanks to the donor family who, in the midst of the worst grief possible, gave Maria the gift of life.
“I’m excited about starting a new life,” Maria said, “and I can’t wait to do all those things I couldn’t do before.”