Earlier this year, when 9-year-old David Diaz needed a lung transplant, his big sister Doris was his most enthusiastic cheerleader. She had good reason to be: She'd been through the same operation three years earlier.
Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford is the only hospital on the West coast to perform pediatric lung transplants, and in 30 years, they've done just 25 of the surgeries, including the Diaz siblings' procedures.
David and Doris needed transplants because they were both born with an especially severe form of cystic fibrosis that caused early failure of their lungs. Doris, now 11, received her lung transplant in 2014.
But David's CF was even worse than his sister's, according to a recent story on the hospital's blog. As David struggled with the disease, Doris helped her brother keep his courage up, their mom Corina explained:
'When David would cough, or his lips would turn purple, or when he started to cry, Doris was scared,' recalls Corina. 'She would say to me, 'Every day he seems worse than me.' But to David, she said, 'David please be faithful. Remember how I looked before? Look at me now.''
Meanwhile, David's physicians, including pulmonologist Carol Conrad, MD, and cardiothoracic surgeon Katsuhide Maeda, MD, carefully considered the risks of performing a transplant in David's situation. David's right lung had collapsed and his very sick left lung had expanded, pushing his heart to the other side of his chest:
Dr. Maeda had done Doris's high-risk, double-lung transplant, as well as several others. But David, according to Dr. Conrad, 'was much higher risk than Doris was, or anybody we've ever known.' David's doctors knew he had no other options. Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford performs more organ transplants than any other children's hospital in the nation. 'I knew that if I said no, David would have nowhere to go,' says Dr. Maeda. 'And most likely, he would have died within a year without transplant.'
Dr. Milla and Dr. Maeda weighed the risks and benefits. 'Then, finally,' says Dr. Maeda, 'We decided to accept him as a transplant candidate.'
Fortunately, once David was placed on the waiting list for a lung transplant, a donor organ became available relatively quickly. Since his 12-hour surgery in March, he's been making a very strong recovery. He's now home in Newark, Calif., with his family, as a recent news story from KTVU explained.
The Diaz family is thrilled that both of their children are able to enjoy activities they couldn't do before transplant, including running and playing with friends, kicking a soccer ball, and attending the hospital's prom together. (The photo above shows Doris and David in the outfits they wore for the Wild West-themed event.)
"I see my kids healthy and playing like normal kids, which is something amazing," Corina said in the hospital's piece. "It's funny, sometimes it's 8 or 9 o'clock at night, and David still wants to kick the ball around."
Previously: Thirty-five years later, Stanford surgeon Bruce Reitz recalls first successful adult heart-lung transplant, Film about twin sisters' double lung transplants and battle against cystic fibrosis available online and New cystic fibrosis screening test developed at Stanford
Photo courtesy of Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford