Vancouver boy awaits decision on transplant

Alex Campbell, 9, needs both lungs replaced

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter



All Alex and Mandy Campbell can do now is wait.

The 9-year-old Vancouver boy and his mother flew from Randall Children's Hospital at Legacy Emanuel in Portland to Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, where they'll remain until Alex can receive a new set of lungs.

If you go

What: Benefit for Alex Campbell. Creekside Dental, where mom Mandy works as a dental assistant, is hosting an event to help the Campbells cover medical and other related expenses. Free wine tastings and appetizers. Wine by the glass or bottle for purchase.

When: 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday.

Where: East Fork Cellars at the Slocum House, 605 Esther St., Vancouver.

Other efforts: Visit this website.

Alex has a rare condition that prevents his blood from getting properly oxygenated. The condition leaves Alex with dangerously low blood oxygen saturation levels and requires the active and energetic fourth-grader to have supplemental oxygen at all times.

On Christmas Eve, Mandy learned her youngest child needed a double lung transplant.

Since arriving at the Houston hospital on Jan. 15, Alex has endured countless tests, exams and interviews with doctors, dietitians and psychologists. Wednesday, the transplant board will vote whether to add Alex to the transplant list.

Mandy is confident Alex will be added to the list, but she is unsure how long it may take for him to actually receive a transplant.

"Unfortunately, with kids younger than 12, they don't go by severity, they go by who has been on the list longest," Mandy said Tuesday. "Alex's case is so severe, and that doesn't play into it at all."

Alex is the only child younger than 12 waiting for a lung transplant at Texas Children's Hospital, but there may be more children at other hospitals, Mandy said. She hopes to know by early next week how many other children are higher on the list than Alex.

Until the transplant, Alex and Mandy are staying at a Ronald McDonald House near the hospital. Alex is undergoing physical therapy a couple of times a week and meets with his transplant doctors once a week, Mandy said.

Alex is confined to a wheelchair, which makes traveling to and from the hospital challenging, Mandy said. Since they don't have a car, they use a hospital shuttle or wheelchair-accessible taxis to get around, she said.

Super Bowl supporter

Alex has good days and bad days, Mandy said. Some days, he talks about all the things he wants to do when he gets new lungs, such as running and riding his bike.

"But then he has days when he just breaks down," she said.

One high point for Alex came last month, after The Columbian first published a story about his situation.

Alex passed some of his time in the hospital watching his favorite team, the Seattle Seahawks, march their way into the NFL playoffs. He said he planned to watch the Seahawks and his favorite player, running back Marshawn Lynch, take on the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game from his hospital bed in Houston.

Lynch came across the The Columbian story through social media, and shared it on his Twitter and Facebook accounts. Then Lynch's mother, Delisa Lynch, called Alex and Mandy at the Houston hospital.

"She told Alex they were thinking about him," Mandy said. "She was really sweet. It was really nice."

Delisa Lynch wanted to connect Alex by phone with Lynch, but they were unable to do so during the commotion leading up to the playoff game. Some of Alex's friends sent him a Lynch jersey — Alex called it his lucky jersey — and he wore it while he watched the Seahawks win the Super Bowl on Sunday.

"He was really excited," Mandy said of Alex.

Another high point is likely to come for Alex next week, when his older brothers and sister come to visit Alex and Mandy in Houston. The family is close; this is the first time they've been separated for more than a night.

"That's something that's been keeping him going," Mandy said, "knowing they're coming."