Two Rare Patients Get Heart, Liver, and Kidney Transplants Back-to-Back

According to a story from USA Today, two 29 year old rare disease patients, Daru Smith of Chicago and Sarah McPharlin of Grosse Point Woods, Michigan, both received triple organ transplants at a University of Chicago hospital this past December. The two have forged something of a friendship after sharing the remarkable experience. Both patients had different rare diagnoses that led to their need for heart, liver, and kidney transplants. Daru has sarcoidosis and Sarah has giant cell myocarditis. She had previously gotten a heart transplant for this illness when she was 12, but complications from the earlier transplant forced her to seek surgery once again.

About Sarcoidosis

Sarcoidosis is a rare autoimmune disease in which inflammatory bunch up into abnormal lumps called granulomas. It can remit unexpectedly or become chronic. Symptoms include weight loss, bone pain, fatigue, chest pain, wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, skin discoloration, skin lumps, and ulcers. African-Americans like Daru appear to be a greater risk. This disease is usually treated with ibuprofen, prednisone, and methotrexate. To learn more about sarcoidosis, click here.

About Giant Cell Myocarditis

Giant cell myocarditis is an incredibly rare heart disease with no known cause. The disease is named after the giant, multinucleated cells that appear upon biopsy. This disease is often lethal and has no known cure. Symptoms may include irregular heartbeat, inflammation of the heart muscle, heart block, or symptoms associated with heart failure. The only known way to save patients with giant cell myocarditis is a heart transplant; otherwise, most patients will die within a year. Recurrence is possible after a transplant. To learn more about giant cell myocarditis, click here.

Triple Organ Transplants

Only 17 cases of triple organ transplant have been recorded in the US since 1989. The two operations, which took nearly 17 hours each, were performed one after another. It is likely that without the introduction of new donor heart criteria last October, neither patient would have gotten a donor heart in time.

The operations appear to have gone off without a hitch. Triple transplant operations do not present a significantly greater risk to the recipient than single organ transplants. A new liver in particular can help reduce the risk of organ rejection. 

Daru, who has a three year old son also named Daru, says that he plans to stay alive as long as he can to raise him and ensure he has a stable future. Sarah is an occupational therapist. The two patients, and now friends, plan to meet up and grab dinner once they get out of the hospital.

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