NEW HYDE PARK, Long Island -- A new car, a nice handbag, maybe a new pair of shoes will make anyone turning 40 happy. What about a new heart and two new lungs?
Lindsay Salguero-Lopez, of Port Washington, is a mother, former model, and the first person on Long Island to receive a heart and two lungs from a single donor, or -- as she's come to be known at Northwell -- "the patient who got a whole new engine."
Her story began in her native Guatemala, where she was diagnosed with Eisenmenger Syndrome, a condition caused by a hole in the heart that prevents the blood from moving oxygen correctly from the lungs and heart to the rest of the body.
She was diagnosed at age 6, and her parents weren't given much hope. In fact, they were told that she wouldn't live past 10.
She was a thin child, constantly exhausted and prone to fainting.
Thanks to her mother's determination to seek better medical treatment, the family came to the United States when Lopez was 15.
In 1998, because of the pulmonary hypertension that caused severe lung damage, she became the patient of Dr. Arun Talwar, a pulmonologist at Long Island Jewish Medical Center. She continues to be seen by Dr. Talwar, who has treated her lung disease and guided her through pregnancy.
Her health continued to deteriorate to the point that the simplest tasks, like getting dressed, became overwhelming.
She was forced to keep her hair short because hair requires oxygen to grow, and her supply was so limited that cutting her hair would consolidate oxygen.
On January 27, Salguero-Lopez was brought to North Shore University Hospital after becoming ill during a family shopping trip.
"Going in and out of consciousness in my car and saying God please don't let this be the last memory my son has of me, dying in the back of my car," Salguero-Lopez said.
A few days later, on February 2, she received the news that she had been placed on the waiting list for two new lungs and a heart.
Two days after that, she was visited by Dr. Zachary Kon, who told her that organs had been located and were on the way.
On February 5, during a seven-hour operation, Salguero-Lopez underwent the first lung transplant surgery on Long Island and received a new heart at the same time -- all from the same donor.
"I would say that she was probably several days from death when we did the transplant," said Doctor Aldo Iacono the Director of Lung Transplantation at Northwell.
And the question now is what's the prognosis?
Doctors explain that only 50% or 60% of these patients survive past five years, but they say Salguero-Lopez is exceptional.
"My expectation is many, many years of good quality of life with her family," said Kon.
Salguero-Lopez, who turned 40 on February 9, says she is looking forward to spending quality time with her husband and son, and she is also eager to grow back her hair.
"They have given me a life, my life back," Salguero-Lopez said.
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