WASHINGTON (AP) – Pizza likely is not at the top of many Christmas wish lists, but five-year-old Joseph Ginese considers a nice cheesy pie one of life’s greatest pleasures. That is because the roly-poly boy was unable to eat solid food for 14 months after surgeons removed his small intestine.

On Friday, he left Georgetown University Hospital where he had been recovering since Dec. 4 from an extremely rare transplant operation to replace his small bowel.

Before leaving, Joseph said he felt “good” since he no longer had to be fed intravenously.

When his problem first appeared in October 2002, his parents suspected a flu bug. His father, Jay Ginese, told reporters his son woke from a nap feeling sick, and was soon in a hospital near their home in Fishkill, N.Y., about 65 miles north of New York City.

“It was incredibly fast,” he said.

Doctors learned that the boy’s small intestine was twisted – cutting off blood flow and causing an infection. They cut out the infected intestine. His mother, Erin Ginese, said the outlook was initially bleak.

“I can remember our surgeon back in Westchester coming to us saying, ‘You need a miracle,”‘ she said.

Dr. Thomas Fishbein, director of Intestinal Transplantation at Georgetown University Hospital, said if Joseph had grown sick ten years ago, he likely would have died within a few years. But now, the doctor is optimistic that the boy will do “very well.”

Fishbein said intestine transplantation is “a young new field.” In fact, Joseph is the first child to undergo the procedure in the Mid-Atlantic region.

The surgeon said there is a severe shortage of transplant organs for the 20-25 patients at the hospital waiting for the operation. Fishbein said pediatric transplants are even more complicated because organs must match size as well as blood type.

Joseph’s parents said they are deeply grateful to the Texas family that donated the vital organ. Hospital officials declined to offer details about the donor family.

“I appreciate it so much,” Jay Ginese said. “It’s remarkable strength to donate your children’s organs on the worst day of your life.”

Fishbein called it “critically important” that more people learn that organ donation can save lives. He said the boy waited “patiently and stoically” for the organ that has changed his life.

Joseph – who rapidly clenches and unclenches his hands on either side of his face when excited – said of his doctors, “I like them.” He is also looking forward to his first meatballs.

Hospital officials said Joseph and his parents will remain in a Washington area hotel a few more weeks before returning to their home.



On the Net:

Georgetown University Hospital: http://www.georgetownuniversityhospital.org/

AP-ES-12-26-03 1839EST



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