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Teen in Transplant Error Expected to Die

Feb 18, 2003 | AP

A teenager from Mexico who mistakenly received organs from a donor with a different blood type was not expected to live more than a few days, a family friend said Tuesday.

The girl, whose family moved to the United States so she could get a heart and lung transplant, remained in critical condition Tuesday, 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."

Jesica Santillam, 17, suffers from a heart deformity that prevents her lungs from pumping enough oxygen into her blood. After a three-year wait, she received a transplant on Feb. 7 with a heart and lungs flown in from Boston.

The organs flown from Boston to Durham 10 days ago 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" that the hospital called her and said they had received same blood-type organs, and that the organs had come exactly just to her daughter's measurements.

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 officer of Duke University Hospital, in a statement released Monday night. "This is an especially sad situation since we intended this operation to save the life of a girl whose prognosis was grave."

Duke Hospital officials initially refused to elaborate on the mix-up, but Mahoney, who has legal authority to participate in Jesica's medical care, said the girl's family was told a "clerical error" allowed her name to come up on a list of possible recipients.

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