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Statement From Surgeon On Failed Efforts To Save Jesica

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DURHAM, N.C. — Here is a written statement from Dr. James Jaggers, chief surgeon on the transplant team for Jesica Santillan, a17-year-old heart-lung recipient who died Saturday:

"Today our focus is on the Santillan family. My own heart is withthem as they face a loss at the end of a process that began with somuch hope.

"I have known Jesica and her family since May of 2002,when her condition deteriorated to a level where only a transplantcould prolong her life. She was placed on the transplant list dueto the fact that she was extremely ill with a congenital heartdefect that was eventually going to kill her in a relatively shortperiod of time.

"Despite the large number of seriously ill people who wouldbenefit from a transplant, less than 30 heart-lung transplants areperformed in the United States each year. Most patients on theheart-lung transplant list die without getting organs. As Jesica'ssurgeon, I had hoped that when we were offered organs from thedonor service, that Jesica would be one of those lucky few - thatwe would be able to prolong and improve her life with a heart-lungtransplant.

"The process of matching donors to recipients is a very complexone and involves multiple steps and organizations. The organprocurement agencies manage the donors, screen the organs andallocate those organs to appropriate recipients based uponnationally approved guidelines. The other parties include the transplant center, the patients and their families. Unfortunately,in this case human errors were made during the process.

"As Jesica's surgeon, I am ultimately responsible for the team and for this error. I personally told the Santillan family about the errors that were made and then tried to do everything medically possible to treat Jesica and try to save her life.

"The staff atDuke Hospital, including the staff of the pediatric ICU and theother transplant surgeons, supported me in this effort. We put ourall into what was, unfortunately, a losing battle.

"Everyone at Duke Hospital made great efforts to provide Jesicawith a better life, and we failed.

"We all join the family in their sense of devastation. I hopethat we, and others, can learn from this tragic mistake and moveforward to make the process safer and available to more of those inneed.

"To do otherwise would fail to properly honor Jesica and hermemory."

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