12-yr-old Houston boy gets life-saving lung transplant

It's a life-saving milestone for a family and hospital in Houston.  Not only did a young 12-year-old boy get a lung transplant, he underwent the 200th transplant at Texas Children's Hospital, since it began its program in 2002.  Twelve-year-old Brandon Cliff has been dealing with a life-long diagnosis of Cystic Fibrosis.  It's a progressive, genetic disease that causes lung infections, makes breathing difficult, and affects the pancreas, liver, and other organs.

Doctors say CF eventually leads to lung failure, which is what happened to Brandon.  He has been under consideration for a transplant for more than a year, then got his gift of lungs three months after being put on the list.  There were a lot of scares along the way for Brandon and his family, but he's now breathing better than ever, after recently undergoing a double-lung transplant.  A celebration took place at Texas Children's Hospital, after he underwent the 200th transplant there. 

"I'm doing good!  Right now my saturation is 97%, it goes from 95-100, which is the best it's ever been in my lifc," exclaims Brandon.  He's taking full advantage of it, and now it's hard to keep up with him! He's beyond excited to walk so far with his new, strong lungs.  "It's a big blessing, and I never knew how much of a blessing it would be - I never knew it would happen," smiles Brandon. 

His loving parents can't agree more.  "It is an incredible blessing! It's a little overwhelming, but every single day it's a little more relaxed, seeing him more comfortable, seeing the progression he has made and seeing the doctor's coming in and telling us how happy they are with the progression, it makes me a little more relaxed each day," says his mom Alesia.

Brandon's pulmonologist is one of the dozens on his team of caregivers.  She's thrilled about how well he's doing.  "I'm very proud of him!  We're all very proud of him and his family - he was brave!  He has been working hard and that is very important to do physical therapy at home, physical therapy with us, and maintain his nutrition.  He has the best attitude, he's fantastic, and fun to be with," states Dr. Ernestina Melicoff, who is serving as the Interim Medical Director of the Lung Transplant Program at Texas Children's Hospital. 

Brandon has big plans, after he heals from this procedure.  What he looks forward to the most?  "Being able to be normal and not have to take breathing treatments constantly, not having to stop to rest and I can play with my cousins and brothers and friends and just keep going," says Brandon.  Plus he's ready to play golf and basketball.  It's obvious by the decorations in his hospital room and cozy blanket on his bed, that Brandon is a huge fan of the Houston Rockets!  His love for the team runs even deeper, after the team recently rolled out the red carpet for him at a game before his transplant. 

"I got to sit courtside, and it was like we were friends at a party!  I got to meet Trevor Ariza, Tarik Black, Clint Capela, Calvin Murphy, and a lot of other Rockets," states a very enthusiastic Brandon. The whole experience was a slam dunk on the scale of excitement for him.  His mother says experiences like that, plus loving family, friends, and faith have helped them get through the tough times.

The future looks bright, said Brandon.  "God put me in this place, in this particular hospital, for this particular reason, and everything just kind of worked out in this way," exclaims Brandon.  "One of the goals main goals is not just survival, but quality of life for children to go back to school, for parents to go back to work, and as normal as possible lifestyles," says Dr. Melicoff.  "The sky's the limit!  There is nothing he cannot do, that he can't accomplish! He has that feeling within him and that makes me feel more hopeful and a guarantee that the sky's the limit for this kid," states his mom.

Another huge bonus of Brandon's lung transplant:  He can't believe how good food tastes and smells.  He says he never realized before how much his lungs affected his ability to smell and taste.  Brandon and his family say they are thankful for his donor and hope to one day meet the donor's family, who gave them the beautiful gift of life.

        For more information, https://www.texaschildrens.org/departments/lung-transplant