DURHAM, N.C. – The lead surgeon on the team involved in a botched heart-lung transplant said Wednesday he believed the appropriate checks had been made before the organs were offered to a 17-year-old who is now near death.
The teenager, Jesica Santillan, remained hospitalized in critical condition at Duke University Hospital, where she mistakenly received organs that didn't match her type O-positive blood during an operation Feb. 7.
"I am heartbroken about what happened to Jesica. My focus has been on providing her with the heart and lungs she needs so she could lead a normal life," the surgeon, Dr. James Jaggers, said in a statement Wednesday night.
Jaggers said he told the girl's parents immediately after the operation that an error had occurred, but the statement didn't indicate when he realized it happened.
The organs were flown from Boston to Durham and included paperwork correctly listing the donor's type-A blood, said Sean Fitzpatrick of the New England Organ Bank of Newton, Mass., which sent the heart and lungs.
Two Duke surgeons who had patients with type-A positive blood declined the organs but a third doctor requested them for Jesica, according to Carolina Donor Services, an organ procurement organization. The organization did not identify the doctor.
Duke hospital officials had no comment Wednesday on why doctors sought the type-A organs for Jesica. It also wasn't clear why the other patients' doctors rejected the organs; Duke and the two procurement agencies declined to discuss details.
The girl's body was rejecting the new organs because of the different blood types. Antibodies in her blood attacked the organs as foreign objects. Doctors estimated before the operation that she had no more than six months to live.
The hospital has acknowledged making the mistake, and said it's investigating.