On October 24th, 1998, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Christine Galan became the first heart and liver transplant recipient in the Western United States. It was a new procedure, but Christine never doubted that it was for the best.
Christine was born in Jamaica and moved to San Diego as a child. When she was a senior in high school, at the Bishop’s School, she became very sick with an auto immune disorder causing her to have her spleen and gallbladder removed. After the surgery, she gained weight from the prednisone medication and no longer could fit in their clothes.
Although she went through that difficult experience, Christine followed her dream of attending college. After she graduated, however, she suddenly experienced severe pain in her back and asked her sister to take her to the emergency room. After several tests, the doctors discovered that she had lupus which had caused congestive heart failure.
She was put on heart medication and told that she would never be able to move at full speed again. But she proved the doctors wrong by persisting at the gym and keeping herself in shape. Christine credits much of her recovery to her dedication to keeping herself healthy.
Christine’s doctors also discovered stones in her liver, and although they attempted to remove them through surgery, they were unable to get them out.
The surgery made her so weak that she was added to the transplant waiting list for a heart and liver in February 1998. By July, Christine was too weak to do anything so she was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit where she spent 11 weeks in the waiting for her transplant. Meanwhile, she was getting sicker and sicker.
Then, her kidneys shut down. After being optimistic for all that time, she was ready to give up. She told her parents that she could not take it anymore and she had lost hope. But that evening, she was told that her new heart and liver were available. She watched as the helicopter took off with the team to get her heart which later came by helicopter, while her new liver arrived in a limo.
Both of her surgeries went well. Christine started to feel better right away. After she was released from the hospital 19 days after her transplants, she returned to work the next day. Her kidneys even started to work again.
On the three-year anniversary of her transplants, Christine completed the New York City Marathon to promote organ donation. She also spent 25 years volunteering at The Starlight Children’s Foundation. In 2010, she married her husband, Mitch.
Sadly, Christine’s transplant journey is not over. Although she has been lucky enough to avoid organ rejection, she is now in need of a kidney. Several people, including her sister, friend, husband, and even her hairdresser have been tested but were not matches.
While she waits for a kidney, she has put her advocacy efforts on hold. She is eager to feel healthy again, and although she is on the waiting list again and on dialysis, she is thankful to have her supportive family by her side.