EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

March 13, 2011

Young swine flu survivor needs heart, lung transplant

NORTH ANDOVER — Cassandra Dupont is no stranger to the doctor's office. Medical professionals have followed the 15-year-old closely since birth.

"From lung specialists, to liver specialists, neurology — you name it, she's got a team following her," said Robert Graham, a doctor at Children's Hospital Boston.

She's beaten seemingly impossible medical odds again and again, including most recently a life-threatening bout with swine flu in late 2009. But since that battle, Cassie's health has taken a turn for the worse. Cassie is now being evaluated for a lung and heart transplant. The surgery could save her life, but is also considered a "high-risk" procedure, according to Graham.

Because Boston hospitals cannot perform the organ transplants in one surgery, Cassie will head to The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for further testing next month. Cassie's mother Danielle DeLisle said her family and friends are holding a fundraiser March 26 at The British Club in Lawrence to help her pay for the travel expenses to and from the hospital.

"Cassie's going to make a grand entrance," said DeLisle. "It's a big journey. But Cassie's gone through so much already that it's just a step at a time at this point."

Both DeLisle and Graham agree that swine flu set the stage for Cassie's recent struggles.

"It's what sort of put her in the position that she's in now with her lung disease," said Graham. "It's as severe as it gets, where it's impacting her heart."

Cassie was born with an enlarged spleen and liver and underwent a lifesaving organ transplant at age 7. She suffers from asthma and pulmonary hypertension — high blood pressure in her lungs — but has yet to be diagnosed with a specific disease or disorder, DeLisle said.

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