At age 32, Brandie Osborne has beaten the odds.
The young woman from Compton has dealt with health issues her entire life and faced death more than once. But now, with a new donated heart and kidney transplanted at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, she has been given a second chance to live and she is ready to take on the world.
Brandie was born with a fairly common genetic condition called Noonan's Syndrome which can be associated with heart and lung problems. In Brandie's case, 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 eventually worsened and she was placed on the wait list for a heart/lung transplant at hospital in northern California that was covered by her insurance.
While waiting, she suffered heart and lung failure which 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 and transferred back to UCLA to pursue "end of life" care.
Brandie spent the next six months in the intensive care unit and slowly improved, ultimately having to learn to walk and function again. In March 2010, she was well enough to go home with aid of several machines that helped her breathe and eat. Despite her chronic heart and kidney failure, her spirit endured and health continued to improve with the love and support of family and friends.
Over the next two years, Brandie's extremely complicated medical issues kept her from being considered for transplant again. However, her lung doctor Dr. David Ross, professor of pulmonology and medical director of the UCLA Lung Transplant Program and her cardiologist, Dr. Daniel Cruz, clinical instructor of cardiology, championed a new idea that by using medications to treat pulmonary hypertension post-heart transplant, she would not need a lung transplant too. In other words, they theorized that the lung problems could be reversed with a healthy new heart and medications. And this strategy could get her back on the transplant list.
"Although it would be unchartered territory, after much intense discussion among the team and explaining the high-risks to Brandie and her family, it was decided put her back on the combined heart and kidney transplant list in June 2012," said Ross, professor of pulmonology and medical director of the UCLA Lung Transplant Program.
Thirty-six days later, Brandie 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.
Going into the heart transplant surgery, Brandie had been told it was an extremely high risk operation. One of the scariest parts for her was that the doctors told her that because of her anatomy, the surgeon might not be able to immediately close the chest wall after the new heart was transplanted and they would have to keep her in the intensive care unit with her chest open and possibly use an oxygenation machine to support the new heart. However, Dr. Richard Shemin, chief of cardiothoracic surgery, successfully performed the delicate operation and managed to close her chest without complications. Less than 24 hours later, Brandie returned to the operating room for the next phase, a kidney transplant from the same donor, which was performed by urologist Dr. H. Albin Gritsch, 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!"
Brandie is now going home from the hospital in just her "skin"-no tubes, no machines, no dialysis-just one small pump that administers her lung medications.
"Thanks to the family who made the decision to donate their loved one's organs, I am getting a second chance at life," said Brandie. "I cannot thank my donor and my UCLA team enough for saving my life!"
And her list of things to do is quite long-- swim, ride a bike, go for walks, play with her Shitzu puppy, travel to Hawaii, eat lots of pasta, and learn how to bake cupcakes and someday open a bakery.
For more information on organ donation, please visit donatelife.net