Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Teen with CF Gets Second Go at Life with First-of-Its-Kind Triple Transplant

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Teen with CF Gets Second Go at Life with First-of-Its-Kind Triple Transplant

Article excerpt

Triple-organ transplant gives teen second go at life


TORONTO - A Toronto teen with cystic fibrosis has been given a second chance at life with a first-of-its-kind triple-organ transplant.

In August, Reid Wylie underwent a 17-hour operation to replace his failing lungs, liver and pancreas at Toronto General Hospital, freeing him from using an oxygen tank and allowing him to eat meals without taking daily handfuls of pills to digest his food and insulin shots to control his diabetes.

A number of triple transplants have been performed using various organs, but this is believed to be the first in the world to replace the lungs, liver and pancreas in a single operation, the hospital says.

Cystic fibrosis, or CF, is a genetic disease that causes the lungs to fill with thick, sticky mucus, making them prone to repeated infections that eventually destroy the respiratory organs. This mucus also blocks tubes that carry digestive enzymes from the pancreas to the small intestine, leading to poor absorption of nutrients. Over time, pancreatic tissue can break down, resulting in diabetes.

"Near the end, I was pretty much only able to walk around a little bit," the 19-year-old said of the months before the transplant surgery, the last several weeks of which he spent in hospital tethered to an oxygen tank.

"I couldn't walk longer than maybe 20 minutes, slowly, without getting out of breath," said Wylie.

Now, he can breathe.

"That's the best part. I can just breathe and I don't wake up gasping for air. I can basically do anything. I've been going to the gym a lot. I just finished playing basketball with some friends."

Dr. Cecilia Chaparro, a TGH respirologist who has treated Wylie for more than two years, said the teen has undergone a complete transformation.

"He was close to dying if he had not had this opportunity," Chaparro said of the donor organs that were virtually a perfect tissue match for Wylie.

"It's really unreal to see him," she said. "He's able to breathe without oxygen and do all his activities.... He's no longer drowning in secretions. All the medications he was using, all the pancreatic enzymes (and insulin), all of those are gone."

Wylie will have to take lifelong immunosuppressive drugs to prevent organ rejection. But because his new lungs, liver and pancreas don't contain the CF gene, they are not subject to the ravages of the disease.

Dr. Shaf Keshavjee, director of the Toronto Lung Transplant Program, called the operation a "medical tour de force, a huge accomplishment."

The double-lung transplant was the first to be done, and that surgery alone took 10 hours, led by Dr. Tom Waddell, who had been on call when the donor organs became available.

"The lungs are the most vulnerable and the most difficult part of the operation to do, and they have less time to be able to sit outside the body," explained Keshavjee, who was not involved in the operation. …

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