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January 29th, 2015

Courtney Kidd’s Long Road to a Normal Life

By In the Loop

Image collage of transplant patient Courtney KiddIf it's true that "what doesn't kill us makes us stronger," Courtney Kidd could give Wonder Woman a run for her money. There was the emergency surgery when she was born. And five other major heart surgeries. Surgery to implant a pacemaker. A hemorrhagic stroke that left her paralyzed on the right side of her body, forcing her to learn how to walk and talk again. And that was just her first 12 years. Now, at 32, Courtney's medical journey has taken another unique turn after she recently became only the third person at Mayo Clinic -- and in the world -- to have a heart and liver transplant done in reverse order.

Courtney first came to Mayo Clinic for her fifth heart surgery. At that time, doctors classified her as "highly sensitized," meaning that her body had built up high levels of antibodies against foreign tissues due to her surgeries and blood transfusions. That made likelihood of her getting a transplant that her body wouldn’t immediately reject extremely low. But this time, luck was on her side, because doctors at Mayo found that highly sensitized patients like Courtney who get liver transplants in combination with other organ transplants tend to not have rejection issues as often. Instead, they say the patient's liver essentially "absorbs” the antibodies so they won’t attack and ultimately reject the other transplanted organs.

And that's why Courtney's primary doctor, Sudhir Kushwaha, M.D., medical director of Mayo's heart transplant program, tells the Kankakee, Illinois, Daily Journal he felt it was necessary to break new medical ground by implanting Courtney's new liver first. "If we had done this double transplant in the regular order, I'm afraid she wouldn't have made it," he says. Instead, the new approach "allowed her new heart to function without difficulties. And we haven't seen any difficulties with her. This is a new concept. No other medical center has done this."

As her daughter continues her recovery and looks ahead to a possible late-February discharge date, Courtney's mother, Annie, tells the Daily Journal there's something else that no other medical center in the world has been able to do for her daughter: help her feel normal, for the first time. "It's a miracle," she says. "All the other surgeries were corrective. This one is the cure."

You can read more about Courtney's transplant story here. Then, share your comments below.

Tags: Dr. Sudhir Kushwaha, heart transplant, Innovation, liver transplant, Mayo Clinic Transplant Center, Patient Stories

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