Saturday, October 18, 2008

Transplant no match for will to succeed

About 360 children participate in the Transplants for Children program.

By Rennie Murrell The Ranger online

Frustrated and anxious from waiting in line at the grocery store, the movies, or at a red light?

Those moments of delay are no comparison to waiting months, years, and even a lifetime for an organ or tissue transplant.

The 32 children and young adults from the Transplants for Children STARS (Striving Towards and Realizing Success) program who toured this college as part of the district's campus tour program, are experiencing or have experienced exactly those circumstances - waiting for a transplant.

Eric and Sharon Sutton, who lost a son to complications after surgery for a liver transplant, established Transplants for Children in 1986, Roddy Baker, clinical director for the program, said.

The program helps pre- and post-op transplant children and their families cope with the emotional, financial and social hurdles they encounter before, during and after transplant surgery, Baker said.

Program Director Sonia Hidalgo said the STARS program is designed for pre- and post-op transplant children ages 10-18.

"This program helps these children prepare for their future, build self-esteem and become involved in their communities," Hidalgo said.

STARS participants must attend six of nine monthly meetings, and perform eight hours of community service to complete the program, Hidalgo said.

"Once this program is completed, the children can receive a $1,000 scholarship to continue their education once the students have graduated from high school," Hidalgo said.

Baker said age does not matter, from 10 years old to 20 years old, they all want to one day attend institutes of higher learning.

"I was given a second chance to live," Steven Schiftmacher, 19, social work freshman at this college, said, "and I think my kidney transplant in 1993 was a wake-up call for me to help myself."

Schiftmacher has volunteered with the program for the past two years, he said.

"I love volunteering my time and knowledge so that I can be a mentor, assist other children, and be a shoulder for these children to lean on," Schiftmacher said.

Organ transplants can come from cadaveric donors and in some cases from living donor transplantations, an article from the Web page for the University of California-San Francisco, Kidney Transplant Program said.

About 360 children are active members of the Transplants for Children program, Baker said.

Certain requirements must be met before a child is accepted into this program, Baker said. Applicants must be from newborn to age 20 and live within 100 miles of San Antonio.

Each child has a specific medical need and the most common transplants are bone marrow, kidney, liver, heart and lung, in that order, he said.

In the hospital on her deathbed, 7-month-old Haleigh Arellano was in desperate need of a liver transplant.

Arellano, now 16, is a junior at Churchill High School, a member of the junior varsity drill team, the Unity Club, Health Organization Students of America, a junior class officer and the high school's safe school ambassador.

The doctors believed her mother's liver would be a perfect match, but after performing exploratory surgery to determine compatibility, tests revealed her mother's liver was not the match they had expected.

The infant was on her deathbed when a motor vehicle accident took the life of a 3-year-old girl. When she died, the girl was being transported to the hospital where Haleigh lay. Her liver was the perfect match, Arellano said.

The liver transplant was a success.

"I am so grateful to the donor, and I would not be alive without her," Arellano said.

She has not decided which college or university she plans to attend, and her long-term goal is to become an OB/GYN doctor, she said.

Arellano spent a summer in Costa Rica as a mentor to children in a Costa Rican government-assisted child day-care facility, Arellano said.

"My experience in Costa Rica was life changing," Arellano said. "In America, we take so much for granted; we are spoiled. I didn't realize how spoiled we are."

She also spent the summer of 2007 volunteering on the recovery floor at University Hospital as a junior volunteer, she said.

For her volunteer work, Arellano was recognized and received a presidential service award from President George W. Bush for completing 300 hours of community service, she said.

When the next president is elected, whether it's Barack Obama or John McCain, Arellano will receive another presidential award for her volunteer work in her community.

While some transplant children do not have to wait long for transplantation, there are some who wait their entire lives for the perfect match.

"I was born with a lot of problems." St. Philip's College culinary arts sophomore Juan Montoya, 23, said.

"My legs were crooked; they had to be straightened out, and I was born without functioning kidneys. I was in bad shape."

Until he was 7, Montoya had to undergo a medical procedure called peritoneal dialysis, in which a sterile solution is run through a tube into the abdominal body cavity to flush out waste products, salts and water.

It was an eight-hour procedure usually performed at night, Montoya said.

"I had a kidney transplant in 1993," Montoya said. "But my body chronically rejected the organ, and now I have hemodialysis treatments."

Hemodialysis is a procedure in which the blood is pumped through a dialyzer, cleansed and returned to the body during a three- to five-hour treatment, he said. "I'm just a normal kid, doing normal things," he said. "I love playing basketball."

Despite the critical medical conditions, many of these pre- and post-op transplant children experience each day of their lives, they are well-grounded, have a positive attitude and walk around with smiles.

More than 98,000 individuals are waiting for organs in the U.S.

More than 28,000 organ transplants are performed each year in the U.S.

A new patient is added to the waiting list every 13 minutes.

Each year, 6,500 patients will die.

For more information, go to at Texas Organ Sharing Alliance.

or the Glenda at Dawson Donate Life Texas Registry.

“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Sign Your Donor Card & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”

Register to be a donor in Ontario or Download Donor Cards from Trillium Gift of Life Network
For other Canadian provinces click here

In the United States, be sure to find out how to register in your state at or Download Donor Cards from OrganDonor.Gov

Your generosity can save up to eight lives with heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and small intestine transplants. One tissue donor can help up to 100 other people by donating skin, corneas, bone, tendon, ligaments and heart valves

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