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The Cutting Edge

Beating the Odds: "I'm Alive!"

Brandie Osborne and Jeanette Marshall

Brandie Osborne (right), with her grandmother, Jeanette Marshall, received a new heart and kidney at UCLA in July 2012. Photo: Courtesy of Osborne Family

Thirty-six days after she was put back on the transplant list, Brandie Osborne learned that an organ donor had been found.

At age 32, Brandie Osborne has beaten the odds. The young woman from Compton, California, has dealt with health issues her entire life and has faced death more than once. But now, with a new donated heart and kidney, she has been given a second chance to live and is ready to take on the world.

Osborne was born with a genetic condition known as Noonan syndrome, which is often associated with heart and lung problems. She developed hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a thickening of the heart muscle, and pulmonary hypertension, which caused high blood pressure in her lungs. In 2009, her condition worsened, and she was placed on the waiting list for a heart-lung transplant at a hospital in Northern California.

While waiting, Osborne suffered heart and lung failure and required a breathing tube. Then her kidneys failed, and she needed dialysis. With so many medical complications, she was deemed an unacceptable candidate for transplantation surgery. After six months in the intensive care unit at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, she improved enough to return home. But her complicated medical issues over the next two years continued to exclude her as a transplant candidate.

However, her pulmonologist, David Ross, M.D., medical director of the UCLA Lung Transplant Program, and her cardiologist, Daniel Cruz, M.D. '99, Ph.D. '00, championed a new idea: If they used medications to treat Osborne's pulmonary hypertension after a potential heart transplant, she would not require a lung transplant at the same time. In other words, the lung problems could be reversed with a healthy new heart and medications. Pursuing this strategy, they hoped, could get Osborne back on the transplant list for a heart, and possibly a kidney.

Thirty-six days after she was put back on the transplant list, Osborne learned that an organ donor had been found. She said her reaction was, "No way! Oh my God! Oh my God," followed by tears, then panic, then more tears and excitement.

The first phase of the surgery - the heart transplant - was performed by Richard Shemin, M.D., chief of cardiothoracic surgery. Less than 24 hours later, Osborne returned to the operating room for the next phase, a kidney transplant from the same donor, performed by H. Albin Gritsch, M.D., associate professor of urology.

When she woke up after the two high-risk surgeries, the first thing she said to her mother was, "I'm alive!"

Osborne returned home from the hospital with just one small pump that administers her lung medications and a long to-do list: swim, ride a bike, go for walks, play with her Shitzu puppy, travel to Hawaii, eat lots of pasta, learn how to bake cupcakes and someday open a bakery.


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