Caden LeMieux smiles for the camera Wednesday, three days after his liver transplant. Credit: Courtesy of Cristi Montgomery

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 Saturday.

Ironically, Caden LeMieux’s new liver came from someone in Mississippi, said his mother Cristi Montgomery.

“His surgeon actually went back to Mississippi himself and took the organ, then flew back to Houston,” Montgomery said.

After four hours of surgery late Saturday afternoon at Hermann Memorial Health System, LeMieux has made significant improvements: His chest and nasogastric tubes were removed, and on Monday, he was able to eat and take a few steps. By Tuesday, he was pacing the halls at the hospital, Montgomery said.

Montgomery posted a photo of LeMieux’s hands two days before surgery and two days after surgery on her Facebook page. In the first, his hands are dark yellow – in the second, they have the appearance of a normal skin color.

LeMieux, who was diagnosed with liver disease 10 years ago, was admitted to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in early July after excruciating stomach pains and high levels of bilirubin, which caused his skin and eyes to turn red. his to turn yellow. His 6-foot-2 frame weighed less than 130 pounds, and the weight kept coming off.

He was told he was in active liver failure and needed an immediate transplant. But UMMC could not do so 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 1 April.

While the two sides 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 business in Philadelphia, closed their bakery Friday to make the 450-mile drive to Houston. Montgomery said she expects her son to be released from the hospital by Monday. Before that, they will give her and other members of his family instructions on how to care for him.

“He has to have care around the clock, 24/7, and he 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 β€” including six of his seven siblings β€” are all in Mississippi. Montgomery said she plans to be in Houston every week and will travel back and forth for the foreseeable future. LeMieux will likely stay in the Houston area for at least a year.

Montgomery said it will be a balancing act to take care of LeMieux while he is so far from their home.

β€œIt’s hard to be nine hours away, especially when I’m self-employed. But obviously, Caden’s health and well-being is our top 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 the UMMC Office of Communications from November 2018 to August 2020, writing press releases and features about the schools of dentistry and nursing of the medical center. A longtime reporter at Mississippi’s top newsrooms, Royals had served as a reporter for Mississippi Today for two years prior to her tenure 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.

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