Local News

Franklin County Girl In Need Of Heart, Lung Transplant

Posted February 12, 2003

— Dozens of people nationwide are waiting for a heart and lung transplant. One of them is 17-year-old Jesica Santillan. She received a new heart and lungs Friday, but she has taken a turn for the worse and now is in desperate need of another transplant.

Last Friday, a death in Boston provided a suitable heart and lungs to replace Jesica's failing ones, but after surgery, her body rejected the organs. She is now unconscious and was placed on life support. Doctors could only offer one hope to her parents.

"She needs another transplant -- one that's a match for her right now because she's not accepting the current transplant," said Magdalena Santillan, Jesica's mother.

A Duke spokesman said Jesica is back on the national waiting list with emergency priority. Doctors said she will not be able to wait long. They are just hoping that something will happen that will allow another transplant to take place.

Three years ago, Jesica became a symbol of hope for many children with life-threatening illnesses. Franklin County home builder Mack Mahoney took her family under his wing and adopted their cause.

Mahoney started a non-profit organization called

Jesica's Hope Chest

, building homes with donated labor and materials and using the profits to help others like Jesica. But today, it is not dollars he is after -- he is looking for a willing organ donor.

"Eighty percent of the people that are on the donor list die while they're on the list because people instead of donating will bury them with the child," Mahoney said.

Officials say 63 people receive an organ transplant each day. Right now, there are more than 80,000 people nationwide waiting for an organ. More than 50,000 of them will die waiting for a match.

For more information on becoming an organ donor, you can contact Carolina Donor Services at




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