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Kwesi Aguillera

Each year, UPMC Global Care works with patients from around the world to bring them to Pittsburgh to receive top-quality health care for complex medical cases. Some patients make a quick decision to come to UPMC for newly-discovered diseases that have been diagnosed. For others, their journeys to Pittsburgh are the results of battling lifelong illnesses.

Kwesi Aguillera, 35, came to UPMC from Trinidad and Tobago. Kwesi was in need of a lung transplant as the result of chronic granulomatous disease (CGD), a genetic disease that prevents the body from producing significant levels of hydrogen peroxide and other chemicals made by the body to prevent bacterial infections.

"My first infection was at the age of 18 months. I continuously got serious infections, whether it was skin lesions or pneumonia, for a number of years," he recalls.

Although he battled the disease throughout his life, Kwesi’s condition did not become serious until 2005, when he spent time in the intensive care unit in his home country of Trinidad and Tobago. Over the next two years, specialists consulted his doctors regarding his symptoms. He was officially diagnosed with CGD in 2007.

Kwesi also developed bronchiectasis, a disease in which the airways become scarred and the body’s inability to get rid of mucus in the airways causes damaging infections. Due to these complications, doctors told Kwesi he would need a lung transplant. Unfortunately, in a country as small as Trinidad and Tobago, the only transplants offered were kidney and eye transplants.

Kwesi’s search for transplant facilities started immediately. He used the internet to search for hospitals in numerous countries including Spain, France, England, and the United States. Ultimately, his decision narrowed to three highly-regarded hospitals: Duke, Cleveland Clinic, and UPMC. UPMC specialists’ concerted effort to attain the best patient outcomes has positioned the hospital system’s ranking among the top 10 respiratory programs in the nation, according to US News and World Report.

Kwesi chose UPMC. In January 2012, he was subsequently accepted for an evaluation, where he was informed that a lung transplant was viable.

Following a return to his home country, Kwesi and his wife came back to Pittsburgh in June 2013. On January 11, 2014, he received the call for a match for his transplant, and the surgery was performed the following day.

UPMC Global Care helped Kwesi during his time in Pittsburgh, providing housing and coordination between his appointments and medical needs. As he recuperates from his procedure, UPMC is providing Kwesi with the proper medication and coordinates with doctors in his home country to monitor his health upon his return. Kwesi is very satisfied with his experience at UPMC.

"I have no problems. I like my doctor. [She]'s very hands-on,” he says about his primary physician, Dr. Maria Crespo.

"She keeps very good interest in me and keeps in contact and asks what’s going on. She checks up on me and sees if there are any issues or problems—more like a mom," he says.

Within the coming months, Kwesi Aguillera is hoping to return home to his wife with the help of UPMC.