Maria Fajardo’s lungs are filled with laughter—thanks to a double lung transplant in November 2012 at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford that relieved her chronic symptoms from cystic fibrosis.
Maria, now 13 years old, was born with cystic fibrosis, a condition that clogs the lungs, leads to life-threatening infections, and hinders the body’s ability to absorb food. Because of her illness, Maria weighed as little as 50 pounds in the months prior to her surgery, and had to be home-schooled starting at age 8 to protect her tender immune system. Even a simple laugh triggered severe coughing spasms, prompting her doctors here to give her an oxygen tank for 24 hours a day, seven days a week for two years before her surgery.
On October 23, 2012, Maria was officially put on the transplant list for new lungs. Only two weeks later, her mother, Marianela Mendoza, got the call that would change her daughter’s life forever: a set of donor lungs became available for her next-to-youngest child. Maria is the seventh in a family of eight children.
“I was nervous, anxious, and terrified,” Maria said as she remembers the hours leading up to her surgery.
Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford has one of the nation’s few pediatric lung transplant programs, and is part of one of the largest and most successful transplant centers for children in the U.S. Maria was one of three patients to receive a double lung transplant here in 2012.
Carol Conrad, MD, medical director of the pediatric heart-lung and lung transplant programs, who has treated Maria since she was only six months old, said, “Maria is such a new girl after her transplant; she can even run up and down stairs now.” Katsuhide Maeda, MD, who performed Maria’s transplant, called her surgery “very successful.”
“Lung transplant is a complicated surgery,” said Conrad. “But we have so many excellent people with extraordinary experience in multidisciplinary areas that we can provide phenomenal outcomes.”
Now with a new set of lungs, Maria, who loves Legos and arts and crafts, is also enjoying swimming—something she couldn’t do before her transplant because she was unable to hold her breath underwater. She and her family will always give thanks to the donor family who, in the midst of their grief, gave Maria the gift of life.
“I’m excited about starting a new life,” Maria said, “and I can’t wait to do all those things I couldn’t do before.”