Lindsay Salguero-Lopez, of Port Washington, is a mother, former model and the first person on Long Island to receive a heart and two lungs from a single donor, or – as she is known at Northwell – “the patient who got a completely new engine.”
His story began in his native Guatemala, where he was diagnosed with Eisenmenger Syndrome, a condition caused by a hole in the heart that prevents blood from properly moving oxygen from the lungs and heart to the rest of the body.
She was diagnosed when she was 6 years old and her parents didn’t have much hope. In fact, they were told she wouldn’t live beyond 10 years.
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She was a skinny child, constantly exhausted and prone to fainting.
Thanks to her mother’s determination to seek better medical treatment, the family came to the United States when Lopez was 15.
In 1998, due to pulmonary hypertension which caused severe lung damage, she became the patient of Dr. Arun Talwar, a pulmonologist at Long Island Jewish Medical Center. She continues to be seen by Dr. Talwar, who treated her lung condition and guided her through her pregnancy.
Her health continued to deteriorate to the point where the simplest tasks, such as dressing, became overwhelming.
She was forced to keep her hair short because hair needs oxygen to grow, and her supply was so limited that cutting her hair would shore up the oxygen.
On Jan. 27, Salguero-Lopez was brought to North Shore University Hospital after falling ill while on a family shopping trip.
“Going in and out of my consciousness in my car and saying God please don’t let this be my son’s last memory of me dying in the back of my car,” Salguero-Lopez said.
A few days later, on February 2, she learned that she had been placed on the waiting list for two new lungs and a heart.
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Two days later, she was visited by Dr. Zachary Kon, who told her that organs had been located and were on the way.
On February 5, during a seven-hour operation, Salguero-Lopez underwent the first lung transplant on Long Island and received a new heart at the same time, all from the same donor.
“I would say she was probably days away from death when we did the transplant,” said Dr. Aldo Iacono, director of lung transplantation at Northwell.
And the question now is what is the prognosis?
Doctors explain that only 50% or 60% of these patients survive beyond five years, but they say Salguero-Lopez is exceptional.
“I expect many, many years of good quality of life with his family,” Kon said.
Salguero-Lopez, who turned 40 on Feb. 9, says she is looking forward to spending quality time with her husband and son, and is also looking forward to growing back her hair.
“They gave me a life, my life in return,” Salguero-Lopez said.