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Young transplant patient survives bout with illness

Meagan Craig, the 18-month-old lung transplant patient who fell ill with pneumonia last month, has bounced back again.

After surviving two transplants of both her lungs, pneumonia proved to be no match for Meagan. She was released from Tampa General Hospital on Sunday morning.

"A few weeks ago I didn't think it was very good," said Meagan's mother, Diane. "I thought we were going to lose her. But she's a strong little girl."

Meagan, of Palm Harbor, was admitted to TGH on June 16. She spent almost two weeks on a respirator before gaining the strength to breathe on her own.

The illness was the latest chapter in a life full of challenges for Meagan.

She is one of two Pinellas County babies who had history-making lung transplants last year at St. Louis Children's Hospital because they suffered from a rare genetic lung disorder, identified by researchers in 1993 as surfactant protein B deficiency. The other child, Autumn Karyn Bailey, has recovered well and is living in Pinellas Park.

Meagan needed a second transplant after a bacterial infection ravaged the first set of lungs she received in February 1994. Each transplant costs about $400,000.

When she fell ill last month, her parents again feared the worst. At the time, they said they didn't think a third transplant would be realistic.

But when Meagan gained strength after being taken off the respirator, they realized their daughter had survived another scare.

The relieved parents, who had become accustomed to spending long days and evenings at the hospital, drove Meagan home about 11 a.m. Sunday. They said she was a little "crabby" after being weaned off sedatives.

"She looks good, her normal self again almost," father Mike Craig said Sunday. "It's a long drive from Tampa to Palm Harbor with her crying the whole way. But it was worth every minute."

Meagan's mother said doctors expected the child to fully recover.

"She still sounds like she's got a real bad chest cold, but it'll just take time to clear," Diane Craig said. "She's tough."