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Heart-Lung Transplant Patient Comes Home

Times Staff Writer

Monica Fisogni, who in August became the first person to receive a heart-lung transplant in Southern California, returned to her Baldwin Park home on Thursday.

As she left UCLA’s Medical Center, Fisogni was greeted by her husband, Enrique Fisogni, their two daughters, Valeria, 6, and Andrea, 3, her mother and her sisters.

“All I want to do now is be with my girls and my husband. All I want to do is hold my girls,” said the 26-year-old woman.

Nearly Always Fatal

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Fisogni had been diagnosed as having primary pulmonary hypertension, a disease which most often occurs in women between the ages of 20 and 40 and is nearly always fatal. The disorder is caused by a build-up of abnormal pressure in the blood vessels of the lungs, which in turn damages the heart.

Doctors diagnosed Fisogni last fall after she experienced shortness of breath from the slightest amount of exertion as well as weakness and fatigue that severely restricted her activities. Her condition quickly worsened to the point that she required 24-hour oxygen therapy and was virtually wheelchair-bound.

The only treatment for her disease was the heart-lung transplant.

“We felt her prognosis for living was essentially zero percent. Without the operation she would’ve probably died within six months,” said Dr. Michael Levine, assistant professor of pulmonary medicine at UCLA.

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On Aug. 27, Fisogni underwent the 5 1/2-hour operation with a team of about 20 doctors, anesthesiologists and various specialists. The donor’s family chose to remain anonymous.

Her operation marked the beginning of the heart-lung transplant program at UCLA. Four more patients are being considered for the operation there in the near future.

With the operation, Fisogni has about a 50% chance of living for at least one year, Levine said.

The biggest threats to her health now are rejection by her body of the transplanted organs and infection.

Although Fisogni’s seven-week stay at the hospital was often difficult, her condition is stable, her spirits are up and, she said, she is ready to take life one day at a time.

As Fisogni was wheeled out of the hospital, followed by a large group of media representatives and family members, her mother, Elida Rodriguez, looked on and said: “I’m very happy to have her back. My daughter went through a lot of pain.”


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