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One gift saves three young lives

Micah Leon family.jpg

Each time I write about an organ transplant, I'm reminded anew of the human impact of medical science. Over the last few weeks, as I've worked on a press release for Lucile Packard Children's Hospital about three organ transplants that happened at the hospital on Nov. 9, I've spent a lot of time thinking about the families affected by the three surgeries. All three transplants used organs from the same donor. One child received a liver, one a kidney and one a heart.

The photo above shows one of the recipients - Micah Leon of Fresno, Calif., with parents Melinda and David. Micah, who is almost three, was born with a congenital defect of the kidneys and started kidney dialysis when he was 10 days old. Melinda told me that Micah loves normal toddler activities: dancing, playing with the family's two dogs, having fun with his cousins. But his kidney disease has slowed him down. He was slow to walk and crawl and always tired before his transplant. His "Handy Manny" toy, sitting beside him on the bed in the photo above, has been his constant companion through a long string of doctor and hospital visits. Melinda said Micah has been known to ask nurses to draw Handy Manny's blood.

Micah's kidney transplant gives him a new start: a chance to be free of dialysis, to grow and thrive like any other kid. The same is true for the two children who received the liver and heart transplants. It was heartwarming to talk to their families and see what the new organs will mean for each child.

The final family in my thoughts, of course, has been that of the donor, a 7-year-old girl who died. I ache for their loss, and hope they realize the extent of the miracle they've enabled for three other children.

The mother of the heart-transplant recipient did an excellent job of expressing how all three families feel about the donation:

"The day that my daughter had surgery, I was crying thinking about that family, their kindness, how courageous it was of them," she said ... "It is, in a true sense, a gift."

Photo courtesy of Lucile Packard Children's Hospital

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