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Saving Sarah G: Mother of three travels 600 Miles for Multi-Organ Transplant

IU Health University Hospital

Saving Sarah G: Mother of three travels 600 Miles for Multi-Organ Transplant

When she heard she needed, not one, but multiple organs transplanted, Sarah Granados began researching the best hospitals. She ended up in Indianapolis at IU Health University Hospital.

By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

Fifty-eight days after a multi-organ transplant Sarah Granados is freshly showered, dressed in a pink t-shirt and jeans. She’s pulled up her dark hair into two pigtails and sits cross-legged on her hospital bed. Getting dressed is the first milestone of many.

The biggest detail, noticeable to her husband, Gabriel, and every other visitor to Granados’ room is her smile. Who could even imagine that this 36-year-old woman had undergone a major surgery to replace her stomach, pancreas, small and large intestines?

For Granados, it’s a story that is measured in numbers. For 11 years she has been sick – suffering from, gastroparesis, a disease of the stomach muscles. Essentially, her stomach was unable to grind up food, and empty the food into her intestines. The result was severe vomiting.

A resident of Gastonia, N.C., a suburb of Charlotte, Granados and her husband began researching hospitals that performed multi-organ transplants. That’s when she ended up at IU Health University Hospital. Her first visit was on Oct. 8, 2021.

“I was listed for 444 days and was transplanted on Nov. 14, 2021 at 4:44 p.m.,” said Granados, who was in the care of Dr. Richard Mangus. She was transported to Indianapolis in a red, white, and blue single-engine plane. Pictures show her bundled up, surrounded by her three children – a daughter, 18, a son, 16, and another daughter, 14.

That number – “three” – is one of the main reasons she smiles. It’s also one of the reasons her heart aches.

“There’s been so much pain through this whole process, and leaving my children behind for so long is one of the toughest things I’ve ever done,” said Granados. “When my condition went from ‘you’ll never live to be 40’ to ‘transplant will give you a chance to go to weddings and become a grandma,’ there was no other choice.”

Days after her 10-hour surgery were measured by milestones. A week after surgery, she posted a picture eating a Popsicle and wrote: “10 years. One angel. My first Popsicle. No words. Thank you to my hero.” A week later she posted a video, taking her first steps with the help of an IU Health physical therapist. The first week in December she posted a photo sitting in the chair of her hospital room looking out the window for the first time. She spent Halloween in a hospital back home. She spent Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s at IU Health University Hospital. She and her husband will celebrate their 18th wedding anniversary in the hospital on January 24.

The couple relies on their family to care for the children back home. There is lots of Face Time, and updates are offered on a Facebook page, “Saving Sarah G.” The page is filled with supportive posts from friends and family members.

All three children were able to visit their parents at Christmas – another milestone.

“We opened presents, played Clue and laughed,” said Granados. There were also tears. “I said I wasn’t going to cry when I saw them but it had been over a month and a half and I couldn’t hold it back. I’m a stay-at-home mom. My whole life has been going to sporting events, and chasing kids. Next to transplant, this is the hardest thing I’ve done being away from them for so long.”

Another milestone was marked on Christmas Day. As they shared dinner together and Granados nibbled at her food, her children noticed her ability to enjoy her meal.

“My oldest daughter was so excited. She said, ‘this is the fist time we’ve eaten dinner together and you haven’t gotten sick,’” said Granados. With the surgery behind her, Granados knows she still has a long way to go.

“I trust Dr. Mangus. If he wants something done, he’ll get it done. If he has concerns he’ll address them efficiently,” said Granados. And as they wait, Gabriel Granados is making his home-away-from-home at an apartment provided by Fair Haven. The program, founded by cancer survivor, Amanda Milner, offers free housing to patients and their families who are far from home.

As she counts down the days and minutes to return to her home 600 miles away, Granados also checks off the moments that show how far she’s come.

“This isn’t just the most pain I’ve been in, this is miracle pain,” she says.

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