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Not many people have to worry about their organs: heart, liver and lungs. But what happens when one of your organs fails?
Daniel Canal, 16, of Wheaton, Maryland received a new liver, pancreas, stomach and intestine-- three times.
On Christmas Eve 1992, I passed out on the bathroom floor at my grandparents' house. My parents rushed me to the local children's hospital.
But doctors could
not find out what was wrong.
The only option left was exploratory surgery. Upon opening me up, doctors found that my small intestine had coiled itself tightly, cutting off the blood supply to the entire bowel.
Without any blood flow, my intestine was essentially dead. Doctors had to remove it to save my life. When I finally recovered, my family was told I would not live past my 15th birthday unless I had an intestine transplant.
I was placed on a transplant list in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, so that when a donor organ arrived, I would be ready. At that time, intestine transplants were experimental and unsafe, so I would have to wait until they were more commonplace if I hoped to live.
Without an intestine to help digest food, I couldn't eat. I had a tube placed in my chest, which pumped a nutrient solution into my body kind of like liquid food. This kind of nutrition was useful for keeping me alive, but if used for a long time it could damage my other organs.
For six years, I waited for a transplant, with no luck. My body gradually deteriorated, until my other organs began to fail. In a last ditch effort, my parents put me on a transplant list in Miami, Florida.
After two days on the list, a donor became available. This means a family somewhere made the incredibly tough decision that their loved one was brain-dead, not coming back and that the organs should be removed and given to someone who needed them.
The transplant was performed, but along with an intestine, doctors transplanted a liver, pancreas, and stomach as well. I recovered quickly, but within a week my body rejected the organs.
Two weeks later, doctors transplanted all four organs again. I developed a massive infection in my abdomen, and lost the second set of organs also.
I was given a third set of organs, after which I was not expected to live. Over the next nine months, I struggled to recover, and gradually regained my health. I made a comeback that was nothing short of miraculous. After months of recovery, I was able to go home.
It's been three
years since my ordeal, and I'm healthy beyond belief.
Though I still have to take medication to prevent rejection, that's a small price to pay for life. I'm in the Guinness Book of World Records, for having the most organs transplanted in history, twelve in all.
When I sit and think about all I've been through, I can find no words to describe how I feel about the sacrifice made by three unselfish families.
They lost someone they loved and decided to donate those organs so that an unknown person could live. That the first two transplants failed doesn't make those families gift any less special. Each set of organs was instrumental in my recovery, and I will always be thankful for what they did.
I can only hope that more people check an enthusiastic "yes" in the organ donation box on their driver's license, so that someday their organs can help save a life too.
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