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For Immediate Release

World's Longest Surviving Pediatric Heart, Double-Lung and Kidney Transplant Recipient Loses Her Battle for Life

Natalie Phillips, of Avondale, Ariz., the recipient of a heart-lung transplant at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh in December 1989, died at 4:30 a.m., Tuesday, April 13, 2004, at the age of 25. Natalie had been the world's longest survivor of pediatric heart, double-lung and kidney transplants.

Last month, Natalie was admitted to an Arizona hospital for an infection, and later sinus surgery was planned for March 17, 2004. She never woke following the surgery and died at the hospital, according to her mother, Lisa Nickell.

"Natalie knew she had received a precious gift from donors she never met, and she always tried to honor that gift," Mrs. Nickell said. "Despite her medical problems, she had a great energy for life and a pioneering spirit. It was her way of saying 'thank you' to her donors."

Natalie had primary pulmonary hypertension, a condition that causes the blood pressure in the lungs to rise, leading to heart failure. Natalie first arrived in Pittsburgh in 1988 at the age of 10 and received a heart-double-lung transplant a year later at Children's.

By 1997, Natalie was once again fighting for survival. Her transplanted heart and lungs continued to function properly, but now her kidneys were failing. Her mother decided to donate one of her own kidneys to her daughter.

Natalie was devoted to raising awareness about the importance of organ donation. Most recently, she sold her own watercolors and jewelry to raise money to participate in the next Olympic Style Transplant Games in France, which raise worldwide awareness of the dire shortage of organ donors.

More than 84,000 people are on the nation's organ transplant waiting list. On average, 16 patients die each day while awaiting an organ, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. To help raise awareness about the need for organ donation, April has been designated National Donate Life Month and April 26-30 is Organ Donor Awareness Week.

In addition to her efforts to raise awareness of organ donation, Natalie participated in many athletic events for transplant recipients. She represented the United States in bowling and track & field at the 2001 games in Japan and at the 2003 games in France. Natalie was awarded the Mickey Mantle Courage Award at the 1998 Olympic Style Transplant Games in the United States.

Marc Lukasiak, 412-692-5016,

Last Update
February 19, 2008
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Last Update
February 19, 2008