LOMA LINDA, Calif. - With little time left before his organs would likely fail, a U.S. Marine received a new liver Sunday for a mysterious ailment doctors said would kill him if he didn't get a transplant.
Doctors operated on Lance Cpl. Chris LeBleu, who had been in a coma and on life support, for nearly 12 hours Sunday after an unidentified donor from New Mexico was found late Saturday night.
Doctors said the procedure went well, said Sgt. Jennie Haskamp, spokeswoman at Twentynine Palms, where LeBleu was stationed. He was in critical condition late Sunday.
In the hospital lobby, his 21-year-old wife, Melany, found comfort in photos of her wedding last fall, shortly after LeBleu returned from Iraq. Despite her fears, she has remained optimistic since her husband's illness was discovered earlier this month.
Several of LeBleu's commanding officers, fellow Marines and other family members huddled with his wife Sunday as they awaited the outcome of the operation.
The cause of the infection is unknown. Dr. Donald Hillebrand, a liver specialist, said LeBleu most likely caught a virus or was exposed to a toxin or chemical in Iraq or after his return.
LeBleu, 22, was a rifleman in Iraq for seven months as part of a 2,200-man task force that lost 21 people and had nearly 200 wounded in action. His battalion commander, Lt. Col. Matt Lopez, said he wasn't aware of any other members of the unit with similar ailments to LeBleu.
Fellow Marines call him "Blue," and say the Marine kept a cool head as his 160-man company guarded a base near the Syrian border.
"He's a real resilient guy, the most relaxed, confident person you'll ever meet," said Lance Cpl. Rob Whittenberg, 23, of Spring Branch, Texas.