Teen receives life-saving double organ transplant at Texas Children's Hospital

Tyler Nelson with Tony Richardson

Former NFL fullback Tony Richardson supports his friend and TexasChildren's Hospital patient Tyler Nelson as he awaits a double organtransplant. Nelson received his life-saving lung and liver transplantat Texas Children's on Feb. 29, 2012.

HOUSTON - (March 13, 2012) - Texas Children's Hospital announced today that doctors recently performed a rare double organ transplant to save the life of Tyler Nelson, a 17 year old patient with cystic fibrosis. The wait is over for Nelson who has lived in Houston during a 16-month wait for a double organ transplant of lungs and liver. Tyler received those life-saving organs at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston on Feb. 29, 2012. Doctors are optimistic about his prognosis. To see a video of Tyler Nelson's journey, please see: www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTRtQpXBG1U.

Dr. David Morales, pediatric lung transplant surgeon and Dr. Jeff Heinle, surgical director of lung transplantation, performed the lung transplantation. Dr. John Goss, director of solid organ transplantation transplanted the liver. Dr. Marc Schecter, medical director of lung transplantation and Dr. Beth Carter, interim medical director of liver transplantation monitored the lung and liver function during the 16-hour surgery. The multi-disciplinary team at Texas Children's Hospital replaced Nelson's two organs, which had been severely damaged over the years by cystic fibrosis.

"Tyler has had a long journey with this disease which damaged both his lungs and liver. We have been monitoring him closely for the past 16 months to make sure we found the best possible match," said Dr. Schecter, also assistant professor of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. "Because his new lungs are not damaged by cystic fibrosis, Tyler now has four to five times more lung capacity. We expect his recovery to progress well, and we are optimistic he will enjoy a normally active lifestyle."

Tyler Nelson's Background

Nelson, who was born with cystic fibrosis, battled the disease for several years until it began to affect his liver. Believing that Nelson would probably need lung transplantation, a Fort Worth area pulmonologist referred him to Texas Children's Hospital, one of the few hospitals in the country with pediatric organ transplant programs.

At Texas Children's, pediatric pulmonologists and liver specialists evaluated Nelson's medical condition and placed him on a transplant waiting list for lung and liver. The two services joined forces in managing his medical care during his wait for the two donor organs. Nelson and his family had to relocate to Houston from Grand Prairie to be near the hospital for his routine care.

"The day we received the call, Feb. 28, 2012 at 10:28 a.m., is a day we will never forget," said Cynthia Nevels, mom. "Tyler was asleep, and I was making breakfast. As I awakened him and we grabbed our packed bags, I felt a peace within that God hadn't forgotten about Tyler - even though our wait had been long. We are truly grateful for the care we received at Texas Children's and the gift bestowed upon us that will give Tyler a chance to fulfill his dreams."

For 16 months, Nelson waited patiently, believing that any day organs would become available. During the wait, Tyler kept himself busy with home schooling, writing an eBook about his experiences and working with the local organ procurement organization, LifeGift, to raise awareness for organ donation, especially among the African-American community.

On two occasions recently his pager went off with the promise of organ offers. Both times, the organs were not compatible for his needs. On Feb. 28, Tyler received a third donor offer. This time the organs were compatible and surgery moved forward successfully.

Texas Children's Hospital worked hand-in-hand with LifeGift to recover the lungs and liver for Nelson. Nelson's donor not only saved his life, but the lives of several others through the donation of a heart, two kidneys, pancreas and heart valves.

"LifeGift has been following Tyler's story for quite some time as he battled his disease and waited for a second chance. His story touched not only people in Houston, but in the state of Texas and the country as well," said Janice Whaley, managing director of clinical operations for LifeGift's Southeast Region. "This is an amazing story of hope and inspiration that will undoubtedly continue to unfold and influence how people think about the impact of donation and the ripple effect it has on so many lives."

Doctors expect that Nelson will soon be able to leave the hospital and return to the family's apartment. He will stay in Houston for follow-up care at Texas Children's for at least three months before he and his family will return to the Dallas area.

Both the Pediatric Lung Transplant Program and the Liver Transplant Program at Texas Children's Hospital are among the largest pediatric lung and liver transplantation programs in the country. Each is certified by the United Network of Organ Sharing.

About Texas Children’s Hospital

Texas Children’s Hospital, a not-for-profit health care organization, is committed to creating a healthier future for children and women throughout the global community by leading in patient care, education and research. Consistently ranked as the best children’s hospital in Texas, and among the top in the nation, Texas Children’s has garnered widespread recognition for its expertise and breakthroughs in pediatric and women’s health. The hospital includes the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute; the Feigin Center for pediatric research; Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, a comprehensive obstetrics/gynecology facility focusing on high-risk births; Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus, a community hospital in suburban West Houston; and Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands, a second community hospital planned to open in 2017. The organization also created the nation’s first HMO for children, has the largest pediatric primary care network in the country and a global health program that’s channeling care to children and women all over the world. Texas Children’s Hospital is affiliated with Baylor College of Medicine. For more information, go to www.texaschildrens.org. Get the latest news by visiting the online newsroom and Twitter at twitter.com/texaschildrens.