Maria Fajardo received a double-lung transplant last fall after years of dealing with cystic fibrosis.
The 12-year-old underwent the operation last fall to alleviate the chronic symptoms of her cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that clogs the lungs, leads to life-threatening infections and hinders the body's ability to absorb food. Her New Year's resolution? To start swimming, an activity that previously was next to impossible for her - she was unable to hold her breath underwater.
Due to her illness, Fajardo weighed as little as 50 pounds in the months prior to her surgery. She had to be home-schooled starting at age 8 to protect her tender immune system. Even a simple laugh triggered severe coughing spasms, prompting doctors at Packard Children's to give her an oxygen tank, which she used for two years - 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Fast forward to Oct. 23, 2012, when Fajardo, who has seven siblings, was officially put on the transplant list for new lungs. Her mother, Marianela Mendoza, got a call only two weeks later that would change her daughter's life forever: A set of donor lungs had become available.
"I was nervous, anxious and terrified," Fajardo said, recalling the hours leading up to her surgery on Nov. 7.
Packard Children's has one of the nation's few pediatric lung transplant programs and is part of one of the largest and most successful transplant centers for children in the United States. Fajardo was one of three Packard Children's patients to receive a double lung transplant in 2012.
"Maria has always been a really remarkable patient," said Carol Conrad, MD, medical director for the pediatric heart-lung and lung transplant programs, who has treated Fajardo since she was only 6 months old. "She is such a new girl after her transplant; she can even run up and down stairs now." Katsuhide Maeda, MD, who performed the transplant, described Fajardo's surgery as "very successful."
"Doing a lung transplant is a complicated surgery, but we have so many excellent people with extraordinary experience in multidisciplinary areas that we can provide phenomenal outcomes at Packard Children's," Conrad said.
The seventh-grader, who loves Legos and arts and crafts, has been staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Palo Alto to be near Packard Children's for her many post-surgery medical appointments. But she looks forward to returning home soon to San Jose, Calif.
Fajardo and her family will always give thanks to the donor family who, in the midst of the worst grief possible, gave her the gift of life. "I'm excited about starting a new life," she said, "and I can't wait to do all those things I couldn't do before."
Stanford University Medical Center integrates research, medical education and patient care at its three institutions - Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford Hospital & Clinics and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital. For more information, please visit the Office of Communication & Public Affairs site at http://mednews.stanford.edu/.
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