Living-donor transplant gives Logan youngster new lease on life
SALT LAKE CITY — A Logan toddler is healthy and thriving, thanks to the generosity of a total stranger, who gave part of her liver to the 2-year-old girl.
In fact, it wasn’t the first time Kate (who asked that her last name not be published) stepped up to donate a living organ.
“My dad had a bunch of health issues, one of them being diabetes and he had to go on dialysis, which is a horrible process,” the 37-year-old mother said.. “I was not a match for him.”
Later on while working in Washington, D.C., Kate met a woman who had similar health issues to her father.
“I asked her about it and she said, ‘Yeah, well my kidneys don’t work and I’m dying,'” she said. “I asked her her blood type and she said A positive and I said, ‘Me too. Would you like a kidney?”
After moving to Utah, Kate decided since she had donated her kidney to an adult, she would like to donate part of her liver to a child. At the time, she wasn’t fully aware the liver could regenerate.
“I said, ‘Really? The liver regenerates? Like fully? OK, let me look into that,'”she said.
After being tested and approved, Kate discovered she was a match, but didn’t know anything other than the recipient was a female.
That recipient would be Eva Anderson, who had been diagnosed with biliary atresia at the age of 2 months. The condition causes blockages and scarring inside and outside of the bile ducts, so the bile can’t flow into the intestines. Bile builds up in the liver, causing damage and many other problems.
“It was nine months of waiting for a matching liver donor,” said Eva’s mom, Alyssa Anderson. “Without intervention, her liver would have failed and she would have died. Most kids with this disease years ago wouldn’t have even lived to see their first birthday.”
The Andersons, who previously lived in the Davis County area, said they wanted to meet Eva’s donor, so a meeting was set up.
“I was kind of starstruck,” Anderson said. “I said, ‘You’re a real person, you’re normal, and you’re just like me. She’s a mom, just like me. I wanted to show her all the pictures and make sure she understood that she saved my baby’s life.”
Eva’s father, T.J. Anderson, said the toddler is doing fantastic. She loves to dance and go down the slide at the playground. She also likes to show off her surgery scar.
“It’s a unique social situation,” Kate said. “The fact that they wanted to meet at all is like a big deal because some people wouldn’t. It takes a lot of emotion and strength just to meet, so I’m glad they were willing to do that. I’m very happy that I did it. She’s super cute and silly and exactly the way a 2-year-old should be.”
Living-donor liver transplants are performed when a portion of a living person’s liver is removed and surgically placed into another person whose liver no longer functions properly. After the surgery, the donor’s liver regenerates to its regular size within about two months.
“Living donor liver transplants not only significantly increase the number of available organs for children waiting for a transplant, but they also reduce the waiting time for children who urgently require a liver transplant, saving their lives,” said Cecile Aguayo, pediatric transplant services director at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital. “Moreover, the use of living donors also enables the transplant to be performed before the child’s condition deteriorates, resulting in better outcomes and quality of life post-transplant.”
Primary Children’s has been a national leader in living-donor liver transplants since 1997, when it became the first center in Utah to successfully perform the procedure. At that time, Primary Children’s was among very few pediatric hospitals in the country that had saved a child through living-donor liver transplantation, Aguayo said.
Since 1997, 42 living-donor liver transplants have taken place at Primary Children’s. The hospital also has the largest liver and disease transplantation program in the Intermountain West, and attracts and serves patients from all over the world.