- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 23, 2003

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) Jesica Santillan, the teenager who survived a botched heart-lung transplant long enough to get an odds-shattering second set of donated organs, died yesterday, two days after the second transplant.
Doctors declared her brain dead at 1:25 p.m. and took her off life-support machines about 5 p.m., said Duke University Medical Center spokesman Richard Puff.
He said he did not know whether the hospital had the family's consent to turn off the machines. An attorney for the family had said hours earlier that the Santillans had wanted to keep Jesica alive and get another, outside opinion on her chance of recovery.
Jesica, 17, whose own heart was deformed, received a heart-lung transplant Feb. 7 but from a donor of a different blood type. Her body rejected the transplant and she was near death by the time the second set of organs was placed in her body early Thursday.
By early Friday, the newest organs were performing well, but Jesica's brain was swelled and bleeding.
"All of us at Duke University Hospital are deeply saddened by this," Dr. William Fulkerson, the hospital's chief executive, said yesterday. "We want Jesica's family and supporters to know that we share their loss and their grief. We very much regret these tragic circumstances."
A spokeswoman for a foundation created to help pay Jesica's medical bills prayed for the girl at a news conference.
Family attorney Kurt Dixon said Jesica's parents and supporters, who had remained with her through her hospitalization, would not be available for comment.
The Santillan family declined to donate any organs from Jesica's body, Mr. Puff said.
Jesica had a heart deformity that kept her lungs from getting oxygen into her blood. Relatives have said her family paid a smuggler to bring them from their small town near Guadalajara, Mexico, to the United States so she could get medical care.
In the first operation, Dr. James Jaggers implanted organs from a donor with type A blood, rather than Jesica's O-positive. In a letter to the United Network for Organ Sharing, which matches patients with donated organs, Duke officials said Dr. Jaggers and Carolina Donor Services, a procurement agency, did not share information about her blood type.
A second set of organs was located less than two weeks later, amazingly fast in comparison with the three years Jesica spent on a waiting list before her first operation. Eighty percent of patients awaiting transplants die before organs can be found.
Dr. Karen Frush, the hospital's medical director of children's services, has said there was no sure way to tell when the brain damage occurred.
But Mack Mahoney, a family friend and Jesica's chief benefactor, said doctors told the family it was because of the time Jesica was connected to life support.
"Life support ruins kidneys. It ruins brains. It ruins all the organs of the body," he said.
Jesica's place on the transplant list was determined by several factors, including the severity of her illness and her age.
Her immigration status played no role because hospitals may place non-U.S. citizens on their waiting lists and must give them the same priority as citizens, said Anne Paschke, spokeswoman for the organ network.
But they cannot perform more than 5 percent of their transplants on noncitizens.


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