Tiffany Last(Photo: Courtesy of Christine Krahn)
(Editor’s note: This story first appeared online December 17, 2006. It has been reprise due to interest in the theft of items from Tiffany Last’s grave.)
Tiffany Last has her first loose tooth.
A milestone for most youngsters, the wiggly tooth for this Waters Elementary School kindergartner is something closer to spectacular.
On Feb. 1, Tiffany will celebrate her sixth birthday and five years since she was the first patient ever to receive a four-organ transplant (lung, pancreas, intestine and liver) at University Hospital and Clinics in Madison.
“It’s hard to be believe six years have gone by so fast,” said her mother, Christine Last of Fond du Lac.
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The exuberant little girl has appeared in two previous stories in The Reporter, and Christine contacted the newspaper to give readers an update on her progress.
“People have been so supportive with prayers and notes,” she said. “We still get Christmas cards from complete strangers wishing us well.”
Three weeks after her first birthday in 2001 Tiffany underwent the rare multi-organ transplant. The donor was a 1-year-old boy from Chicago.
Since then, she’s suffered only one minor organ rejection, her mother said, but in the first years after the transplant, the toddler was in and out of the hospital for numerous illnesses and infections.
“She was immune-suppressed,” Christine said. “Now, it’s been two years since her last hospital stay.”
Her kindergarten teacher, Ann Schob, calls Tiffany “a happy, delightful little girl doing well in school.”
“She enjoys the learning activities and play time with other children,” Schob said. “She gets along with everyone.”
Tiffany takes care of herself very well for a little girl with a colostomy bag and a j-tube (a tube used for feeding). Christine said that although her daughter will never be able to eat like a normal person, she is able to drink water, enjoys a “sip of coke” occasionally, and sucks on the marshmallows that come in Lucky Charms cereal.
“I let her order something for lunch at school so she feels like everyone else,” Christine said. “She tells me she always gets a salad because, ‘I know that’s what you like, Mommy.’”
The doctor’s growth chart indicates Tiffany is catching up but is still very short for her age — head-to-head with her 3-year-old brother Tayten, whom she likes to call “Tater Tot.”
“Life expectancy, stuff like that — the doctors never tell me. It could take one thing to knock her out, or she could live until she’s 30 or 40,” Christine said.
The precarious nature of Tiffany’s future lends itself to more coddling than her mother would normally dish out.
“I refuse to live my life in regret if something would happen to her,” Christine said. “That’s why I am a stay-at-home mom. My kids are so important to me, and I learned that through her.”
The Make-A-Wish Foundation is sending the Last family to Disney World in Florida later this year. The highlight for Tiffany will be meeting the “Cheetah Girls.”
“I’m so proud of who she’s become,” Christine said. “I was so scared she wouldn’t make it. At first, I prayed she would just be healed. Now, I say a prayer of thanks for each day that I have her with us.”
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