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Derry boy recovering at home after high-profile intestinal transplant

Ben Schmitt
| Thursday, July 30, 2015, 7:09 a.m.
Angelo Giorno, 4, of Derry holds a drawing made by Olivia Swedberg, a Nebraska girl who died of brain cancer and whose small intestine was transplanted into Giorno on July 1, 2015.
Courtesy of Angelo Giorno's family
Angelo Giorno, 4, of Derry holds a drawing made by Olivia Swedberg, a Nebraska girl who died of brain cancer and whose small intestine was transplanted into Giorno on July 1, 2015.
Angelo Giorno, 4, of Derry wears a bracelet honoring Olivia Swedberg, a Nebraska girl who died of brain cancer and whose small intestine was transplanted into Giorno on July 1, 2015.
Courtesy of Angelo Giorno's family
Angelo Giorno, 4, of Derry wears a bracelet honoring Olivia Swedberg, a Nebraska girl who died of brain cancer and whose small intestine was transplanted into Giorno on July 1, 2015.
Angelo Giorno, 4, of Derry holds a card honoring Olivia Swedberg, a Nebraska girl who died of brain cancer and whose small intestine was transplanted into Giorno on July 1, 2015.
Courtesy of Angelo Giorno's family
Angelo Giorno, 4, of Derry holds a card honoring Olivia Swedberg, a Nebraska girl who died of brain cancer and whose small intestine was transplanted into Giorno on July 1, 2015.
Angelo Giorno, 4, of Derry went through surgery at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC in July to receive a small intestine transplant. Giorno died Thursday night.
Courtesy of Angelo Giorno's family
Angelo Giorno, 4, of Derry went through surgery at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC in July to receive a small intestine transplant. Giorno died Thursday night.

After a monthlong hospital stay, Angelo Giorno walked through the front door of his home with a pressing demand: macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes.

His family happily obliged.

“That's his favorite,” one of his guardians, Dale Darazio, said.

That Angelo can eat is remarkable enough. On July 1, the Derry boy underwent a high-profile intestinal transplant in Children's Hospital of UPMC of Pittsburgh.

Angelo, 4, and Lucas Goeller, 2, of Indiana Township captivated the attention of people in Western Pennsylvania and beyond 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 July 1 transplant surgery, and Angelo received Olivia's small intestine during a simultaneous procedure in Children's Hospital. Angelo's transplant helped combat a digestive disorder known as short bowel syndrome.

Lucas is still recovering at Children's, where officials said he was in fair condition Thursday.

Doctors discharged Angelo on July 23, but Darazio waited until Wednesday night to share the news on Facebook. Angelo's popularity continued to grow locally and the family needed some down time, Darazio said.

“It got to the point where people always wanted to touch him whenever we stepped outside of the hospital for air,” he said. “Last week, a woman scooped him up and ripped out one of his stitches. She felt terrible but, needless to say, we needed a break. We hid for a few days.”

During that time, Angelo combed through a package sent by Olivia's loved ones from North Platte, Neb. The contents included a rubber bracelet emblazoned with the words “Prayers for Olivia,” one of her drawings and a photo from her obituary.

Darazio said Angelo proudly wears the bracelet and when asked about Olivia, he replies, “She gave me her belly.”

“We want to do our part to make sure she's never forgotten,” Darazio said.

Reached in Nebraska, Oli­via's mother, Lauressa Swedberg, who has a 16-month-old daughter, said she was thrilled to learn about Angelo's homecoming.

“I definitely want to visit both boys in Pittsburgh at some point,” she said.

On Saturday, she plans to travel to Lincoln, Neb., to meet a 22-year-old man who she believes received Olivia's kidneys. Swedberg explained that both kidneys from her daughter were able to function as one for an older recipient.

“I'm staying busy,” she said. “On our end, the publicity has calmed down, and I am wondering what to do with my time. People are moving forward with their lives, and I don't expect them to think of me every day, but it is hard when everyone goes home. I'm so grateful to have another daughter.”

Angelo will travel to Children's several times a week as an outpatient for follow-up care that includes routine biopsies of his small intestine. He's taking the steroid Prednisone among other medications, and his family is learning how to infuse him with the protein treatment, Albumin.

“He's doing very well,” Darazio said. “He's gained weight and puffed up a bit, probably from the steroids. But, overall, it's been unbelievable to have him home.”

Angelo's family has set up a GoFundMe account to help pay for medical equipment, transportation and other items associated with his continuing care. To help, visit http://www.gofundme.com/angels4angelo.

Ben Schmitt is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7991 or bschmitt@tribweb.com.

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