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Last updated on April 19, 2014 at 5:20 EDT

Multiple-Organ Transplant Recipient Grows Stronger at Family House

August 2, 2008

By Chris Togneri, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Aug. 2–As Julie Trahan recovers from a multiple-organ transplant, she dreams of the day she can thank her donor’s family.

“I want to let them know how grateful I am,” Trahan said. “It isn’t just about me now.”

Trahan, 28, of Rodman, N.Y., was featured last month in a Tribune-Review story on Family House, a nonprofit that provides shelter and moral support to critically ill patients who travel to Pittsburgh for medical treatment and their caregivers.

As a child, Trahan contracted post-viral gastroparesis, a condition that prevents people from digesting food. She came to Pittsburgh on April 30 to await stomach, small bowel and pancreas transplants.

Trahan underwent surgery June 26. She left UPMC Montefiore July 23 and is recovering at Family House Shadyside.

“The transplant was a larger success than what the doctors had hoped for,” Trahan said. “They were really amazed.”

Before the surgery, Trahan had not eaten solid food since 2006, and her weight plummeted to 61 pounds.

Now she weighs 80 pounds and is working with a nutritionist to develop a healthy diet.

Trahan does not know how much longer she will have to stay at Family House. Doctors want her close so they can monitor her recovery, she said.

Transplant patients nearly always experience some level of organ rejection. So far, however, her body has responded well and she has passed “the most critical stage for rejection,” she said.

“I am doing so well,” she said. “I am constantly thinking of the future — that I have one, that I won’t have to go through the pain that I did. It’s a relief.”

Her mother, Mary Trahan, said Julie still faces obstacles, but that hopefully the worst is over.

“I feel pretty fortunate to have my daughter back,” she said.

Trahan does not know the name of her donor. She said doctors told her only that the organs came from “a small boy who lived in tornado country.”

Donor recipients are advised to wait a year before deciding whether to attempt contact with the donor’s family, said Holly Bulvony, director of corporate communications and public education for the Center for Organ Recovery and Education.

Trahan said she would write to her donor’s family.

“I want to let them know that I’ll do anything I can to keep their child’s memory alive.”

She dreamed of her donor, even before the surgery, and believes his name is Michael.

“He’s a blond-haired boy,” she said. “He told me in one dream, ‘They tell me I have to die, but that’s OK because I know you’re hurting.’ “

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