DEATH by Malpractice
(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
``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
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
Mahoney said Jesica would have died within six months without a
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
``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
02/18/03 13:32 EST
Copyright 2003 The Associated Press.