Susan Jessop counts herself twice blessed. A kidney-pancreas transplant saved her own life and made her dreams of motherhood a reality.
Transplant recipients generally are discouraged from becoming pregnant during the first two years following surgery because of the risk of infection, said Dr. Larry Stevens, head of the transplant team at LDS Hospital.Jessop discovered she was pregnant three months after surgery. Despite the risks, the 30-year-old Rupert, Idaho, woman said she couldn't bear the thought of losing a chance at motherhood.
"It's a dream I never, ever thought would come true," she told members of the Amicus Club, a group that raises funds for research and programs at LDS Hospital.
Jessop chose to continue the pregnancy but soon found herself confined to bed as her blood pressure climbed. Eventually, she developed potentially lethal toxemia, prompting doctors to deliver the baby prematurely.
Jessop's daughter, now 10 months old, weighed only 3 pounds at birth. Her prematurity required a month-long hospital stay, but Jessop considers herself lucky.
"If it hadn't been for the thoughtfulness of somebody who signed that donor card and was thinking of what they could do for someone else, I wouldn't have the chance to have a life," she said. "I wouldn't have a chance to have a family."
Jessop is one of only a few kidney-pancreas transplant recipients to experience pregnancy.
Only 46 such transplants have been performed at LDS Hospital during the last four years, and few of them have been women in their childbearing years, Stevens said.
Jessop was asked to tell her story to members of the Amicus Club because some of the funds they raise benefits transplant patients. But her experience was only half the transplant story.
Bob and Terry Fair, of Pocatello, Idaho, filled in the other half.
Two years ago, the couple received a telephone call that their 21-year-old daughter, married only 27 days, and her husband were thrown from their car in a highway rollover near Wendover.
When doctors told them their daughter was brain dead, the Fairs joined in prayer before deciding they would donate her organs.
Her liver was transplanted into a man in his 30s whose own liver was irreversibly damaged when he was given the wrong medication. A woman in her 50s received the heart. Both corneas went to a woman in her 80s. Her kidneys were transplanted into two people.
"We feel good about that," Fair said of the decision to donate their daughter's organs. What's harder to deal with, he said, is outliving your own child.
Someone else who lost a child gave Richard Headlee a second chance at life. A heart transplant three years ago has allowed him to bowl with his grandchildren, travel with his wife and continue his career.
Headlee's donor even enabled him to help someone else. The valves from his diseased heart were healthy enough to be harvested for transplant.