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Follow-Up Transplant Surgery on Teen Over

Aired February 20, 2003 - 10:37   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Take you live now to North Carolina. This is Mack Mahoney, family spokesman for Jesica Santillan.
Let's listen in.


MACK MAHONEY, SANTILLAN FAMILY SPOKESMAN: She is now off of total life support. She has no machines on her. Her heart's doing its job, and her lungs are working. Everything's working, doing its job. And that's a wonderful thing. We got a new heart and new lungs and are just working perfect.

No sign of rejection. Of Course, Jesica was on high doses of rejection, you know, antirejection medication, so didn't mention anything about the rejection.

They have, like I said, normal bleeding. Now tending to that. As soon as they stabilize that, they will continue and go ahead and close her up. And once they do that, then they will return her to the PICU. And as soon as I get her into PICU, I will take you guys some pictures and somebody has got a way to download them, get you out some pictures of what she looks today. That's all that I can tell you now, that's all they know.

QUESTION: Did they do the same tests that last time immediately after the transplant, where they checked to see if she is rejecting or accepting?

MAHONEY: That's basically what they're doing. They are giving her time. Never closing up until they know what's going on happen. May have to do some logistical mechanical stuff. I mean, I don't know.

QUESTION: When is she expected to regain consciousness?

MAHONEY: They are not -- they are probably going to keep her unconscious for a little while, simply just let her rest. She has been through an ordeal. Her body has to recover. They probably let her rise to a level of consciousness where they'll seek how she moves around, and does. But they probably won't (UNINTELLIGIBLE) conscious, I wouldn't think.

QUESTION: What time was the surgery?

MAHONEY: I understand 5:30 this morning. Surgery was pretty much over with in five hours, right now just in stabilization, and handling any of the logistics, you know.

QUESTION: Came out about 10 minutes ago, would you say?

MAHONEY: The surgery has been over for some time. They're just now stabilizing her. I mean, all of this -- you have to understand, they just put a new heart in this baby, and new lungs, and they've got to make sure they function, and that's what they're doing, and we told them to take all of the time they needed. We don't care it takes all day, if they are careful. They are taking extra precautions with Jesica. They even have guards at the OR room. They have got guards on the operating room.

QUESTION: You said some time soon they'll be moving her to intensive care?

MAHONEY: Sometime today. They would not give us a time. They said they were taking extra precaution with her, and we said, that's fine, we have no problem that. She was a very sick little girl, not as if you are healthy and do this operation, you come out four, five hours and be in the PICU. She is going to take longer.

QUESTION: Do you have anymore details about where the organs came from?

MAHONEY: I have no idea. Right now, we're not concerned with that. We are concerned with thanking donor family. Our prayers are with them. We realize that they've had a great loss. And it's terrible thing to have to -- for our child to profit from their heartache. But we thank the paramedics for being gracious enough to give the gift of life. That's what message should be, and from now on, the media ought to help you with that. We need to get that out. We need to make sure that people are understanding that this is a wonderful thing. We live in a wonderful age, to do this, and it's a wonderful thing for -- if you have a loved one, and you lose it, it's at least wonderful to know that they can live on, you know, in the body of someone else.

QUESTION: What are some of the obstacles she face now out of surgery?

MAHONEY: She faces -- they have to see what her kidney function's going to be, because she has been on life support so long. They feel like the new heart, you know, without the gases from the machines are going to -- that will improve, but they don't know that. I mean, they're not giving us any -- we asked that, but they're not giving us any definite. But that is a concern.

Another concern is if she has sustained stroke during the time she was on the machine. They (UNINTELLIGIBLE) All of that last night, and didn't have time to really check that out before the new donor organs became available. So this is something...

QUESTION: Had a stroke when?

MAHONEY: They don't know that she had one, ma'am. They said last night when they did the CAT scan, that there were dark places in the brain, the CAT scan, that could be attributed to stroke. They don't know that. That may not be it. It could be several other things, too. This all remains -- these are all questions unanswered. We'll deal with those in the days to come. We love our kid, and we're just glad to have her back. And if she has some problems, we'll get her through therapy or what whatever it takes, OK.

Dr. James Jaggers (ph)


MAHONEY: James Jaggers (ph), thoracic surgeon with Newt's (ph) Transplant team.

QUESTION: And then there was a second surgeon as well.

MAHONEY: There again -- you're asking the surgeon I don't want to answer, or address those until I know. That's one of the least of my worries at this time.

QUESTION: Have the doctors said when they might be able to check and see if any of that damage has occurred, when they might have an answer?

MAHONEY: It will be in the coming days. They probably will let Jesica rest. She's been through a terrible ordeal. I think all of you know we have lived through it ourself, and probably need to let her get some rest. In time, they'll start reviving her, come out of sedation, and they'll start finding some of these things out.

QUESTION: Was this a directed donation? Do you know that much?

MAHONEY: The doctors told me last that that these organs came through normal channels. That they were offered up, many organs were offered up specifically for Jesica, nearing our campaign to get organs donated. Many of them have been offered up specifically for Jesica. People will say, my loved one has died, I want Jesica, that little girl, to have my loved one's organ. But what the doctor said, and I'm not sure they want to tell anything like that about, and they said it came through normal channels.

In my knowledge, they would have to do that anyway. I mean, even if someone offered it up and still come through. So I don't know if that means, you know that someone has specifically directed the organs. He just said that many was offered up, and we had to pick the one that was most suited for Jesica, and we believe our choice of the best. We believe we made the right choice of what was offered. And we appreciate that. I mean, that's what we would want. I mean, I'm not in position to pick one organs.

QUESTION: It could be that the family did not say, give these to Jesica?

MAHONEY: It's possible. It's possible they came through normal channels. In my personal opinion, I think that's very unlikely because of the publicity that this has received, but it is possible.

QUESTION: Mac, the doctor said that there were many organs offered up and...

MAHONEY: Yes, they had a choice of which ones was best for Jesica, and this is what they chose to do. And we have to appreciate that. They're the doctors, we're not. I mean, they know what is best for that patient.

Anything else?

I believe I've done that in the first press conference.

OK, You weren't here. I will give you one later.

QUESTION: You wouldn't mind hearing it again. You don't mind, do you?

MAHONEY: Well, I am just getting tired. My voice is going away. I have talked for what, 12 days, nonstop, and it's very emotional, but yes, last night, we were called, and I got the call at about midnight in my hotel room, and I was asked -- told that the transplant team wanted to meet, you know, with the family and with me. And we went into the conference room, and we spoke -- Dr. Jaggers (ph) came in, and he explained what he had done. He explained that many organs have been offered up. They had chose the ones they thought was the best, and it was 12:30 when we meet him again. He learned, he said, we have organs, we have an offer organs, he said, I believe it to be a good organ. He said, I believe the organs to be good. My question was, was it the right blood type?

And he said, yes, the right blood type, and he said that he expected complications because Jesica was so very ill. I believe he painted a lot darker picture then than what it turned out, and of course many times surgeons do that. Things went -- seemed to have gone very well, a lot better than what he described that night.

KAGAN: We have been listening to Mack Mahoney. She is the family spokesman for Jesica Santillan. She is this 17-year-old who continues to fight for her life. She made it out of surgery today, her second surgery for an organ transplant for heart and lung. She is out of surgery, she is not on life support, her new heart and lungs are working on their own.

At this point, given the protocol, there is no information on exactly where the organs came from, but this is a family that's very grateful indeed of getting a second chance for Jesica to fight for her life. We are understanding the hospital will have a news conference at 1:30 Eastern. Of course we are going to carry that live here as well on CNN.


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