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Transplant Patient Near Death After Error

February 18, 2003

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) _ A teenager from Mexico whose family moved to the United States so she could get a heart and lung transplant was near death Monday after mistakenly receiving organs from a donor with a different blood type.

``This was a tragic error, and we accept responsibility for our part,″ said Dr. William Fulkerson, chief executive officer of Duke University Hospital, in a statement released Monday night. ``This is an especially sad situation since we intended this operation to save the life of a girl whose prognosis was grave.″

Jesica Santillam, 17, suffers from a heart deformity that prevents her lungs from pumping enough oxygen into her blood. After a three-year wait, she received a transplant on Feb. 7 with a heart and lungs flown in from Boston.

Jesica remained in critical condition Monday, a hospital spokesman said. Mack Mahoney, a family friend, said she was not expected to live more than a few days.

The heart and lungs flown from Boston to Durham 10 days ago were sent with paperwork correctly listing the donor’s blood type, said Sean Fitzpatrick of the New England Organ Bank, which sent the organs.

Somehow, the type-A organs were transplanted into the 17-year-old with type O-positive blood.

Duke Hospital officials initially refused to elaborate on the mix-up, but Mahoney, who has legal authority to participate in Jesica’s medical care, said the girl’s family was told a ``clerical error″ allowed her name to come up on a list of possible recipients.

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