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Texas Teen Receives Rare Double Organ Transplant

By on March 14, 2012 in Health News Texas with 0 Comments

by Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

Tyler Nelson, a 17 year old with cystic fibrosis, has lived in Houston for the past 16-months waiting for a double organ transplant of lungs and liver believing that any day organs would become available. During the wait, Tyler spent his time being home schooled and writing an eBook about his experiences.

On February 28th doctors at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston performed the rare double organ transplant. The multi-disciplinary team replaced Nelson’s two organs, which had been severely damaged over the years by cystic fibrosis.

Dr. David Morales, pediatric lung transplant surgeon and Dr. Jeff Heinle, surgical director of lung transplantation, performed the lung transplantation, while Dr. John Goss, director of solid organ transplantation, transplanted the liver.

Monitoring the lung and liver function during the 16-hour surgery was Dr. Marc Schecter, medical director of lung transplantation and Dr. Beth Carter, interim medical director of liver transplantation.

Former NFL fullback Tony Richardson (l) supports friend and Texas Children’s Hospital patient Tyler Nelson as he awaits a double organ transplant Photo: Texas Childrens

“Tyler has had a long journey with this disease which damaged both his lungs and liver. We have been monitoring him closely for the past 16 months to make sure we found the best possible match,” said Dr. Schecter, an assistant professor of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. “Because his new lungs are not damaged by cystic fibrosis, Tyler now has four to five times more lung capacity. We expect his recovery to progress well, and we are optimistic he will enjoy a normally active lifestyle.”

Nelson was born with cystic fibrosis, battled the disease for several years until it began to affect his liver. A Fort Worth area pulmonologist referred him to Texas Children’s Hospital on the belief that Nelson would eventually need lung transplantation.

Texas Children’s Hospital is one of the few hospitals in the country with pediatric organ transplant programs. The Pediatric Lung Transplant Program and the Liver Transplant Program are among the largest pediatric lung and liver transplantation programs in the country certified by the United Network of Organ Sharing.

Pediatric pulmonologists and liver specialists at the hospital evaluated Nelson’s medical condition and placed him on a transplant waiting list for lung and liver. The two services joined forces in managing his medical care during his wait for the two donor organs. Nelson and his family had to relocate to Houston from Grand Prairie to be near the hospital for his routine care.

“The day we received the call, Feb. 28, 2012 at 10:28 a.m., is a day we will never forget,” said Cynthia Nevels, Tyler’s mother. “Tyler was asleep, and I was making breakfast. As I awakened him and we grabbed our packed bags, I felt a peace within that God hadn’t forgotten about Tyler – even though our wait had been long. We are truly grateful for the care we received at Texas Children’s and the gift bestowed upon us that will give Tyler a chance to fulfill his dreams.”

During his 16-month stay in Houston he worked with the local organ procurement organization, LifeGift, to raise awareness for organ donation, especially among the African-American community.

On two occasions his pager went off with the promise of organ offers, however both times the organs were not compatible for his needs. On Feb. 28, Tyler received a third donor offer. This time the organs were compatible and surgery moved forward successfully.

Texas Children’s Hospital worked hand-in-hand with LifeGift to recover the lungs and liver for Nelson. Nelson’s donor not only saved his life, but the lives of several others through the donation of a heart, two kidneys, pancreas and heart valves.

“LifeGift has been following Tyler’s story for quite some time as he battled his disease and waited for a second chance,” ,” said Janice Whaley, managing director of clinical operations for LifeGift’s Southeast Region. “His story touched not only people in Houston, but in the state of Texas and the country as well. This is an amazing story of hope and inspiration that will undoubtedly continue to unfold and influence how people think about the impact of donation and the ripple effect it has on so many lives.”

Doctors expect that Nelson will soon be able to leave the hospital and return to the family’s apartment. He will stay in Houston for follow-up care at Texas Children’s for at least three months before he and his family will return to the Dallas area.


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