The 28-year-old Neshoba County man who had to travel to Houston for a liver transplant because of a dispute between his insurer and the hospital that runs the state’s only organ transplant program received his new liver on Saturday.
Ironically, Caden LeMieux’s new liver came from someone in Mississippi, his mother Cristi Montgomery said.
“His surgeon actually flew back to Mississippi himself and picked up the organ, then flew back to Houston,” said Montgomery.
After the four-hour surgery late Saturday afternoon at Hermann Memorial Health System, LeMieux has made marked improvement: both his chest and nasogastric tubes have been removed, and on Monday, he was able to eat and take several steps. By Tuesday, he was making laps around the hall in the hospital, Montgomery said.
Montgomery posted a picture of LeMieux’s hands two days before surgery and two days after surgery on her Facebook page. In the first, his hands are a dark yellow – in the second, they have the appearance of a normal skin tone.
LeMieux, who was diagnosed with liver disease 10 years ago, was admitted to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in early July following excruciating stomach pain and high levels of bilirubin, which caused his skin and eyes to turn yellow. His 6-foot-2 frame weighed in at less than 130 pounds, and the weight kept coming off.
He was told he was in active liver failure and needed a transplant imminently. But UMMC couldn’t do it because of the hospital’s ongoing contract dispute with Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi, which has left the state’s largest hospital out of network with its largest private insurer since April 1.
While the two parties are currently in mediation, there is no resolution in sight.
After the family got the call late Thursday, Montgomery and her husband, who own their own business in Philadelphia, closed their bakery on Friday to make the 450-mile drive to Houston. Montgomery said she expects her son will be discharged from the hospital by Monday. Before that, they will give her and his other family members instructions for how to care for him.
“He has to have round-the-clock care, 24/7, and has to go back to the doctor twice a week for four weeks,” she said.
While LeMieux’s father and stepmother live in Houston, the rest of his family – including six of his seven siblings – are all in Mississippi. Montgomery said she plans to be in Houston every other week and will travel back and forth for the foreseeable future. LeMieux will likely have to remain in the Houston area for at least a year.
Montgomery said it will be a balancing act to care for LeMieux while he’s so far from their home.
“It’s tough being nine hours away, especially with me being self employed. But obviously, Caden’s health and well being is our main priority,” she said. “So we’ll just have to make it work.”
Editor’s note: Kate Royals, Mississippi Today’s community health editor since January 2022, worked as a writer/editor for UMMC’s Office of Communications from November 2018 through August 2020, writing press releases and features about the medical center’s schools of dentistry and nursing. A longtime journalist in major Mississippi newsrooms, Royals had served as a Mississippi Today reporter for two years before her stint at UMMC. At UMMC, Royals was in no way involved in management decisions or anything related to the medical center’s relationship or contract with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mississippi.