Ironically, but not surprisingly, John's final organ transplant actually was a product of her first three. Organ recipients must be on a lifetime regimen of drugs to suppress their immune system in order to stave off the body's rejection of the new organ. The drugs however, have side effects that can slowly weaken the kidney.
"John had what 30 percent of liver transplant patients and 40 to 50 percent of heart transplant patients develop in the five years after transplant: kidney failure as a side effect of the immunosuppressive drugs," said Cronin.
Given that John will have to remain on immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of her life, her donor kidney may suffer the same fate as her original one because of the drugs, Gordon said.
It is a problem that transplant surgeons only have been able to detect in more recent years, as patients survive long enough to experience that particular side effect five, 10, 20 years down the road, Cronin said.
"[John] has done miraculous[ly]," Cronin said. "It's more than 10 years and it looks like she's full steam ahead."