Rare Transplant for Cystic Fibrosis

SEATTLE (Ivanhoe Newswire) – 30-thousand children and adults in the U.S. are living with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that affects the lungs. For some, a lung transplant is the only hope for survival. But one woman we talked to had her lungs and more transplanted.

Kyra Valdez doesn't take a day for granted. A year ago, shopping would have been out of the question for the 26-year-old.

Valdez told Ivanhoe, "I could barely walk from my kitchen to my family room."

Kyra has cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that affects the lungs. At one point, her lung function dropped to less than 20-percent.

"Because there's so much mucus in your lungs, it's kind of like you're drowning, like you just can't take a deep breath" Valdez explained.

Kyra needed a double lung transplant to survive, but tests showed she also needed a liver transplant. It's a rare surgery. 

Michael Mulligan, M.D., Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, Washington told Ivanhoe, "The combination is what makes it rare."

When a donor was found surgeons at the University of Washington took out Kyra's old lungs and replaced them with donor lungs. Then, they did the same for her liver. When she woke up from surgery, Kyra had normally-functioning lungs for the first time in a long time.

Dr. Mulligan explained, "You're going back years in their life. They haven't experienced this level of function and freedom from hospitalization in years."

Jorge Reyes, M.D., Professor and Chief of the Division of Transplant Surgery at the University of Washington School of Medicine told Ivanhoe, "It's almost like even when you see the patient in the ICU, almost immediately after they look different, they really do. It's a miracle."

Now, Kyra's breathing easier and enjoying every minute of it.

Valdez told Ivanhoe, "Every time I do something that I wasn't able to do before, it's just amazing!"

Right now more than 78-thousand Americans are on an active waiting list for an organ transplant. On average, 21 people die each day waiting for a transplant. Doctors say Kyra wouldn't have made it without her new lungs and liver.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Marsha Hitchcock, Field Producer; Cortni Spearman, Assistant Producer; Rusty Reed, Videographer and Jamison Koczan, Editor.