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Hospital: Double transplant teen has no brain activity

Decision on stopping life support might be necessary

Family spokesman Mack Mahoney visits Jesica Santillan, 17, in the hospital after her second transplant operation.

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CNN's Elizabeth Cohen reports Jessica Santilla's new heart and lungs are working, but her family is angry over the first transplant. (February 20)
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A simple blood test is performed to determine the correct blood type of a donor and recipient. Here's how your blood type should be compatible with your potential donor's blood type:

• If you are blood type A, your donor should have blood type A or O.

• If you are blood type B, your donor should have blood type B or O.

• If you are blood type O, the donor must have blood type O (type O is called the universal donor).

• If you have blood type AB (the universal acceptor), your donor can have blood type AB, A, B or O.

Source: Cleveland Clinic

DURHAM, North Carolina (CNN) -- Double transplant recipient Jesica Santillan has no brain activity, a hospital spokesman said early Saturday, although the hospital has not officially declared her brain dead.

Duke University Medical Center spokesman Richard Puff said an EEG showed no brain activity and a blood flow scan showed no blood was getting to her brain.

The hospital still plans to conduct medical tests on the 17-year-old Mexican girl later in the day to confirm that she is brain dead.

On Friday the hospital said the Mexican teen's new heart and lungs are "working well" but that the results of a CAT scan performed at 3 a.m. EST revealed she has experienced "significant swelling and bleeding in her brain, which is life-threatening." Doctors inserted a tube in an attempt to relieve the swelling.

Santillan has been clinging to life since shortly after her first transplant February 7, when she was given organs from a donor with an incompatible blood type -- type A, which did not match her O-positive blood -- causing her weakened body to reject them. Another heart and lungs became available, and she underwent her second transplant Thursday.

Santillan's parents have been keeping vigil by their child's bedside.

Her surgeon, Dr. James Jaggers, has told her mother, Magdalena Santillan, that on Saturday she will have to consider taking her daughter off life support, Mahoney said.

"She told the doctor that it was in God's hands and not in his," he told reporters, adding that Santillan's mother, who is Roman Catholic, "certainly wouldn't be the one to take the machines off and kill her daughter."

"She said that was God's doing, and not her doing."

Santillan is on a respirator and a dialysis machine in the hospital's pediatric intensive care unit.

Mother 'says her daughter is not gone'

When asked if the transplant recipient had been given last rites, Mahoney said Santillan's mother won't discuss the issue because "she says her daughter is not gone."

The critically ill teen is at the center of a dispute pitting Mahoney, Santillan's self-proclaimed godfather, against Duke University Medical Center.

Doctors believe the brain injury was caused by time she spent on heart-lung machines, Mahoney said.

Mahoney maintains that after the unsuccessful transplant, he was forced to battle the hospital's administration because it didn't want unflattering publicity about the error, which the hospital has acknowledged.

He claims the hospital was more concerned about protecting its reputation than trying to find suitable donor organs from a compatible blood group.

The delay damaged Santillan's brain and might have cost her her life, he charged. The administration needed to say it made a mistake "and not let a child lay on life support 10 or 14 days knowing that it's ruining her brain, it's ruining the other organs," he said.

The hospital denies the allegation, saying it did everything possible to correct the error and give Santillan the best possible care.

Doctors had said the second surgery would give the teen a 50 percent chance of survival. Without it, she would die, doctors had said.

Two and half years ago, Mahoney set up a foundation in the girl's behalf after reading a newspaper article about how she needed a transplant because of a heart deformity that kept her lungs from getting oxygen into her blood. He has acted as the family's spokesman because Santillan's parents speak only Spanish.

Anne Paschke, spokeswoman at United Network for Organ Sharing, said critical shortages of organ donors through the United States make finding a donor for a heart-lung procedure an uphill battle.

UNOS administers the nation's only organ-procurement and -transplantation network.

Paschke said 55 heart-lung transplants were performed nationwide, according to the latest statistics, in 2001 and 2002. As of February 7, she said, 197 people are on the waiting list for the procedure.

Doctors said Thursday that nearly 80,000 people are on waiting lists for organs.

-- CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and senior medical producer Miriam Falco contributed to this report.

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