2 boys who received transplants at Children's Hospital progress to sunnier days
Little Angelo Giorno stepped outside of the hospital Monday morning, breathed in the muggy air, looked up at the sky and repeated these words: “Sunny day. Sunny day.”
Officially, Angelo — who underwent an intestinal transplant last week in Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC — is listed by officials as stable and in fair condition. But his legal guardians Dale Darazio and Dean Kuhns said the 4-year-old Derry boy is active, happy and chatty.
“He's doing extremely well,” Darazio told the Tribune-Review. “He's up and around and keeps telling us that he's ready to go home.”
Angelo and 2-year-old Lucas Goeller of Indiana Township captivated much of Western Pennsylvania last week when the boys received organs from a 3-year-old Nebraska girl who died of brain cancer.
Lucas received Olivia Swedberg's liver during a transplant surgery that began Wednesday night and ended early Thursday. Angelo received Olivia's small intestine, during a simultaneous procedure, to combat a digestive disorder known as short bowel syndrome.
Children's officials said that Lucas — like Angelo — was in fair condition.
His mother, Jessica Goeller, said Lucas' liver function appears to be improving while he remains on a ventilator.
“The doctors are decreasing his ventilator settings so he can breathe more on his own,” she said. “But they're being cautious so that his lungs stay safe. Truly, the process is amazing.”
Goeller said she's chatting daily via Facebook with Olivia's mother, Lauressa Swedberg.
“She's so strong,” Goeller said. “Our conversations have been really deep and interesting. I'm amazed at how well she's holding up.”
Swedberg connected with the Goeller family through social media when she received an email about Lucas' condition and a link to his Facebook page. She requested that Olivia's liver go to Lucas through a process known as direct donation.
When a transplant team recovered Olivia's liver for Lucas, they realized her small intestine was a match for Angelo.
Swedberg said that separate teams recovered organs from Olivia — her heart, kidneys and corneas — but she's not certain where in the country the other transplants occurred.
Swedberg, who lives in North Platte, Neb., told the Tribune-Review the positive news surrounding Lucas and Angelo helps keep her grief at bay.
“It keeps me going every day to hear about these boys,” said Swedberg, who has a 15-month-old daughter. “I hope they know that this is helping me as much as it has helped them. Their joy is holding my family together.”
Swedberg said she talked to Darazio on the phone several times.
“It's been great, communicating with both families,” she said. “I can feel their arms around me. I know they want to hug me, and I want to hug them back.”
Darazio said the feeling is mutual.
“It's amazing to hear her voice on the phone, knowing what her daughter did for us,” he said. “It's something, obviously, that I'll never forget. I'm not sure I can express how grateful I am.”
Ben Schmitt is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7991 or email@example.com.