Teen in desperate need of new lungs after wisdom teeth removal, family says

A Colorado teen is in need of a lung transplant after a routine wisdom teeth removal surgery led to the discovery of a rare autoimmune disease. (Source: KKTV)
Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 6:31 AM AKDT
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV/Gray News) – A 17-year-old in Colorado is in need of a lung transplant after a routine wisdom teeth removal surgery led to the discovery of a rare autoimmune disease.

Lonnie Pesterfield was a normal, healthy teen going into his wisdom teeth surgery last October.

“He was the healthiest child I had. He never got sick ever; the last time he was sick was when he was 6 years old and got the flu,” said his mother, Stephanie Pesterfield.

But shortly after his wisdom teeth were removed, things took a turn for the worse. Lonnie Pesterfield ended up in the ER after coughing up blood. He was declared septic, and within 48 hours, he was placed on a ventilator in the ICU.

After a series of tests and conversations with doctors, he was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease called ANCA+ vasculitis.

“Vasculitis means inflammation of blood vessels,” physician Dr. Richard Vu said. “Vasculitis is an autoimmune condition where your own immune system attacks your own healthy cells.”

Stephanie Pesterfield said the diagnosis is “one in a million” for someone her son’s age, but she is thankful they caught it in time to immediately begin the appropriate treatment.

The disease affects about 1 in 50,000 people but is more prevalent in middle-aged white men and women.

Lonnie Pesterfield’s lungs were filling up with blood, and he spent three weeks in the hospital.

Once he was discharged, “we thought recovery was the only thing we’d have to tackle,” Stephanie Pesterfield wrote in a GoFundMe post.

But as it turns out, Lonnie Pesterfield’s lungs were not the only organ affected. The vasculitis flare up also destroyed his spleen to a “nonfunctional point” and caused mild to moderate damage to his kidneys and liver, according to his mom.

A week after he had a kidney biopsy, Lonnie Pesterfield went into respiratory distress and was again hospitalized and placed on a ventilator last month. He then underwent an “extremely risky” lung biopsy, according to his mom, which revealed scar tissue and inflammation.

“They started him on a stronger immunotherapy medication, but at this point, it was made clear to us that if they didn’t start showing improvement soon, Lonnie wouldn’t be able to keep his current lungs as he was only at 13% function,” Stephanie Pesterfield said.

Stephanie Pesterfield said her son’s condition is constantly changing. To make matters worse, the Colorado Springs family has to make a three-hour round trip every day to the hospital in Aurora to see him.

“It looks like his journey is gonna be a lot longer, a lot harder, and I’m not gonna be able to work like I used to at all for a very, very, very long time,” Stephanie Pesterfield said.

Lonnie Pesterfield is now being evaluated to hopefully get on the lung transplant waiting list in May, something the family never thought they would have to go through. As he keeps fighting, his family is adapting to their new reality.

Stephanie Pesterfield said the family has four autistic children at home “who we are trying to balance everything for.”

“We are almost four months into this nightmare with Lonnie, and I’ve worked very hard to just ‘make it work’ without accepting outside help, but Lonnie needing a transplant means that until he gets new lungs, he will be very medically needy. The transplant will be a hard surgery with an even harder and longer recovery,” she said.

The family is asking for donations via GoFundMe to help them through this difficult time. You can donate here.