Stormie Jones' painful journey, which ended with her sudden death at age 13, six years after her pioneering heart-liver transplant, blazed the way for other multiple transplants, doctors say.
"We've been able to provide better quality of life and longer life for many people" because of Stormie's ordeal, Dr. Jorge Reyes, staff physician at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, said after Stormie died there Sunday.But Stormie didn't like being under a media spotlight, acquaintances recalled.
"She wished everybody would treat her normal instead of like she had an operation, because she didn't like everybody asking her how she felt or if she was feeling OK," said Crystal Millikan, Stormie's best friend in her hometown of White Settlement, Texas, a Fort Worth suburb.
Stormie endured organ rejection and hepatitis after her historic double transplant on Valentine's Day 1984 and a second liver transplant this February.
"She went through a lot of pain, you know, as a guinea pig and as necessity," her stepfather, Alan Purcell, said at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport before flying to Pittsburgh.
"The pain is over with," Purcell said. "She doesn't hurt any more."
Stormie was rushed from her home to a Texas hospital Saturday night with a sore throat and fever. She then was flown to the Pittsburgh hospital.
Stormie was dehydrated when she arrived, Reyes said. Her condition didn't appear serious then, but it deteriorated rapidly, hospital spokeswoman Lynn McMahon said.
Her mother at her side, Stormie went into cardiac arrest and died at 9:52 a.m. Doctors tried for more than an hour to resuscitate her.
Preliminary autopsy results were inconclusive, but Reyes said that if Stormie had a flu virus, it could have caused a rapid or irregular heartbeat.
Funeral arrangements were pending, McMahon said.
Stormie was 6 when she became the first person to receive a transplanted heart and liver. Since then, University of Pittsburgh hospitals have performed at least 10 other transplants involving the liver and another organ.
The nation knew her as a brave teenager, but Stormie was famous around Children's Hospital for her generosity to other patients. She once bought a book on Chinese so she could communicate with a 3-year-old patient in the toddler's language.
"She did that kind of thing all the time," McMahon said. "She was just so highly regarded by other children. She went to great lengths to take the time to play with them and talk with them."