By Martha Underwood

Killeen Daily Herald

HARKER HEIGHTS An open-heart surgery date had been set for a 9-year-old Harker Heights girl who was to receive an artificial heart valve or a pigs valve when a 20-year-old woman died, making a human valve available.

Michaela Mahoney was born with a heart defect that unexpectedly deteriorated, her mother, Norma, said. Surgeons transplanted the donated heart valve on Aug. 25.

Organ transplants mean saving a persons life, Norma Mahoney said.

Her daughters life certainly has changed.

I can run faster and stay in the pool longer, said Michaela, who has grown an inch and a half since the operation.

With her doctors approval, she joined a dance class and climbed to the top of a three-story rock wall activities that were impossible before the surgery.

Michaelas father, Lt. Col. Michael Mahoney, was home from Iraq for rest and relaxation when the surgery was done.

He went back to Iraq knowing Michaela would be all right, Norma Mahoney said.

She wrote to the donors family, expressing condolences at their loss and assuring relatives that Michaelas life improved dramatically after the transplant.

There are not enough words of gratitude to say when a childs life is saved, Mahoney said.

Michaelas progress was possible through medical advances since the first successful organ transplant 50 years ago. To date, there have been about 400,000 human organs transplanted.

Locally, 32 organ transplants were performed at Scott & White Memorial Hospital in 2004. They were kidney, pancreas or kidney/pancreas combinations, said spokesperson Brenda Walen. The Temple hospital began doing transplants in 1997.

On Dec. 23, 1954, Richard Herrick received a healthy kidney from his identical twin brother, Ronald, in Boston.

Herrick, 23, lived another eight years, until the original kidney disease destroyed his new organ. The Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to Dr. Joseph E. Murray for his success.

Herricks successful surgery occurred after a half century of failed transplant attempts. In 1905, doctors performed the first corneal transplant to improve sight. The following year, French doctors began attempting kidney transplants, but over the next 48 years, all 40 patients died, a New York Times article stated Tuesday.

After Herrick received his kidney in 1954, transplant research accelerated, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing Web site. In 1962, doctors successfully transplanted a deceased donors kidney. The first patient with a transplanted heart survived in 1968; the first patient with a transplanted heart and lung survived in 1981.

Other than kidneys, organ transplants were rare, said UNOS, until the drug cyclosporin was introduced in 1983. The drug keeps the recipients body from rejecting the implanted organ.

Another major milestone was passage of the National Organ Transplant Act in 1984. The legislation created the national transplant system for organ sharing and prohibited the sale of human organs. Today, there are 86,876 patients on the organ donation waiting list, including 5,876 Texans.

Contact Martha Underwood at

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