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HEADLINE: N.O. hospital's 1st heart recipient dies ...


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  • HEADLINE: N.O. hospital's 1st heart recipient dies ...

    Copyright 2003 The Times-Picayune Publishing Company
    Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA)

    June 3, 2003 Tuesday


    LENGTH: 730 words

    HEADLINE: N.O. hospital's 1st heart recipient dies;
    Chalmette girl lived to age 10

    BYLINE: By Brandy Warren; and Amy Blakely; St. Bernard/Plaquemines bureau

    Victoria Elizabeth Lee, 10, the recipient of Tulane University Hospital's
    first heart transplant, died Saturday morning.

    In November, Victoria was diagnosed with post-transplant lymphoproliferative
    disease. She recently suffered from kidney problems.

    After she was born, Victoria had suffered from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a
    condition in which the heart muscle progressively thickens, interfering with the
    heart's ability to pump. Without the transplant, Victoria likely would have died
    within in a year.

    "When they first told us she needed a heart transplant, I was kind of
    skeptical," said her father, Wayne Lee of Chalmette. "We didn't know that much.
    You always heard transplants were a temporary thing."

    Victoria was added to the transplant list Oct. 1, 1992, and had surgery 21
    days later, when she was about 20 weeks old. The donor heart came from an
    unidentified child in the Philadelphia area.

    At the time, doctors gave Victoria a 70 percent chance of surviving a year
    and a 60 percent chance of living three years. "We had her for 11 years," Wayne
    Lee said. "She was a normal healthy kid. We've been really lucky."

    Victoria's surgery was performed by Dr. John Pigott, a cardiothoracic surgeon
    at Tulane University Hospital. Pigott had been doing heart transplants for seven
    years and had been hired in 1991 to establish Tulane's heart-transplant program,
    the second in the New Orleans area.

    Ochsner Foundation Hospital began doing transplants in 1970, but Ochsner,
    along with other transplant programs nationwide, went on hiatus later that year
    until an effective anti-rejection drug was available. The drug cyclosporine was
    approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1983 and, two years later,
    Ochsner resumed transplanting.

    Today, Tulane and Ochsner are two of the three heart-transplant centers in
    Louisiana, said Beth Landry, public and governmental affairs administrator for
    the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency in New Orleans. The other program is in
    Shreveport, where Louisiana State University Medical Center operates a program
    with Willis-Knighton Medical Center.

    Wayne and Yvonne Lee said that despite having a heart transplant, their
    daughter lived a normal life.

    She was a Girl Scout and a fifth-grader at Chalmette Christian Academy. She
    liked to ride her bike in her Chalmette neighborhood, and she loved to play
    baseball. And on Thursday, Victoria would've celebrated her 11th birthday.

    "If you didn't know she had a heart transplant, you wouldn't know it," Wayne
    Lee said. "You'd see her as a normal kid."

    He said his daughter had no major health problems until last year. Like other
    kids, he said, she had the occasional cold or flu. But nothing serious.

    In November, Wayne Lee said his daughter was diagnosed with post-transplant
    lymphoproliferative disease.

    One of Victoria's physicians, Dr. Marta Rozans, said Victoria had been on
    immune suppressive medication since her childhood transplant. The medication
    blocked her immune system so her body wouldn't reject her heart. In November,
    Rozans said Victoria had suddenly developed very large lymph nodes. Victoria had
    a biopsy and was diagnosed with the disease and later treated with chemotherapy.

    But whenever the disease appeared to go away, it came back, Rozans said. She
    was later treated with radiation therapy.

    Rozans said that a combination of things -- the radiation therapy and immune
    suppressive medication -- led Victoria to begin having kidney problems. During
    recent weeks, she was having dialysis.

    And up until Friday night, Victoria seemed OK, Rozans said. She was breathing
    from a tube, but was still communicating with her parents.

    "She was mouthing whole sentences," Rozans said. "She was doing arts and

    On Saturday at about 2:30 a.m., Victoria's blood pressure fell. Doctors
    suspected she was bleeding internally, Rozans said.

    Victoria died Saturday at about 6 a.m.

    "She was a sweet, lovely, well-adjusted person," Rozans said. "She wasn't a
    kid with a heart transplant. It didn't define her life."

    Funeral services for Victoria Lee will be held Wednesday at 2 p.m. at St.
    Bernard Memorial Funeral Home, 701 W. Virtue St., Chalmette.

    . . . . . . .

    Brandy Warren can be reached at

    [email protected] or at (504) 826-3830 and Amy Blakely can be
    reached at [email protected] or at (504) 826-3831.

    GRAPHIC: Victoria Elizabeth Lee 'She was a normal healthy kid,' her father said

    LOAD-DATE: June 3, 2003
    Thanks, Tim
    Forum Administrator

  • #2
    Re: HEADLINE: N.O. hospital's 1st heart recipient dies ...

    Our thoughts and prayers will be with Victoria's family. I am glad they were able to have these past wonderful years with their little angel. May the good memories help sustain them through the tough times ahead. Linda


    • #3
      Re: HEADLINE: N.O. hospital's 1st heart recipient dies ...

      My heart goes out to Victoria's family.
      God Bless the child!

      Love and Peace forever, Victoria!



      • #4
        Re: HEADLINE: N.O. hospital's 1st heart recipient dies ...

        God Bless Victoria.
        I know her death was not what we think of as an HCM death, but in fact it was HCM that caused her situation.
        I know that we know more about HCM today than we did 11 years ago and children born today under similar circumstances may hold a brighter future.
        We wish her family peace and comfort during this difficult time.

        Knowledge is power ... Stay informed!
        YOU can make a difference - all you have to do is try!

        Dx age 12 current age 46 and counting!
        lost: 5 family members to HCM (SCD, Stroke, CHF)
        Others diagnosed living with HCM (or gene +) include - daughter, niece, nephew, cousin, sister and many many friends!
        Therapy - ICD (implanted 97, 01, 04 and 11, medication
        Currently not obstructed
        Complications - unnecessary pacemaker and stroke (unrelated to each other)