DEATH by Malpractice
DURHAM, N.C. (Feb. 18) - A 17-year-old girl who mistakenly received organs from a donor with a different blood type is not expected to live more than a few days, a family friend said Tuesday.

Jesica Santillan, whose family moved to the United States from Mexico so she could get a heart and lung transplant, was in critical condition, said Richard Puff, a spokesman for Duke University Hospital.

``She's only got a couple of more days to live on this heart-lung machine, and she's already experiencing damage to her kidneys,'' friend Mack Mahoney told ABC's ``Good Morning America.''

The girl's own antibodies are attacking the organs, he said, and she almost died from a heart attack Feb. 10.

Duke Hospital, which did the transplant, has accepted responsibility for the error.

Jesica was suffering from a heart deformity that prevented her lungs from pumping enough oxygen into her blood. After a three-year wait, she received a transplant Feb. 7 with a heart and lungs flown in from Boston.

The organs were sent with paperwork correctly listing the donor's blood type, said Sean Fitzpatrick of the New England Organ Bank, which sent the organs.

Speaking through an interpreter, the girl's mother, Magdalena Santillan, told ``Good Morning America'' the hospital told her they had received the same blood-type organs and that they fit exactly to her daughter's measurements.

Yet somehow, the type-A organs were transplanted into the girl with type O-positive blood.

``This was a tragic error, and we accept responsibility for our part,'' said Dr. William Fulkerson, chief executive of Duke University Hospital. ``This is an especially sad situation since we intended this operation to save the life of a girl whose prognosis was grave.''

Mahoney said Jesica would have died within six months without a transplant.

The natural antibodies most people have in their blood will try to destroy an organ from someone of a different blood type. Some hospitals have found ways of filtering the blood so that an organ from a donor of a different blood type is not rejected.

Jesica remains on the national waiting list kept by the United Network for Organ Sharing. Spokeswoman Anne Paschke said the organ procurement group cannot specifically search for a heart and lungs for Jesica.

``Unfortunately, there are very few organs available,'' Paschke said. The organs not only have to be the right blood type, they have to be the right size to fit into the girl's chest cavity.

In the first 11 months of last year, there were just four heart-lung transplants in the country for children between the ages of 11 and 17 and a fifth for a child under 1, the organization's records show. The previous year, there were four such transplants among 11- to 17-year-olds.

02/18/03 13:32 EST

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press.