Stories about: Split liver transplantation

Liver brothers: Two lives linked by split-liver transplant

Brent and Malambo - Liver transplant recipientsIt is late in the evening on June 14, 2015. Kern Tyler and his wife Pasina Mazoka-Tyler sit in a waiting room at Boston Children’s Hospital, while their 11-month-old son Malambo Mazoka-Tyler, born with a life-threatening disease called biliary atresia, undergoes a liver transplant.

To arrive at this moment, they have traveled vast distances, visited multiple hospitals, sought the advice and counsel of numerous doctors, packed all their belongings and moved more than 7000 miles from their home in Zambia, Africa, to Boston, Massachusetts.

He had picked out what he wanted to wear, where he wanted to be buried, and he told me, ‘My soul is all I have left. If I don’t have a liver, I am going to die.’

Yet, they call this journey a blessing.

In the same room, a family from Maine patiently waits, while their son is prepped for his liver transplant.

Born with cystic fibrosis, 18-year-old Brent Groder is battling end-stage liver disease. Just two months earlier, he was planning his funeral, recalls his mom Charlene Newhall. “He had picked out what he wanted to wear, where he wanted to be buried, and he told me, ‘My soul is all I have left. If I don’t have a liver, I am going to die.’”

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Surgeon advocates to increase split liver procedures to save children on the transplant waiting list

Every year, dozens of infants and small children in need of a liver transplant die waiting for a donor organ to become available. But it’s not usually a lack of donor organs (grafts) that prevents doctors from saving these children—it’s a lack of organs small enough to fit in their bodies.

“Infants and young children waiting for a new liver are at the greatest risk of dying on the organ waiting list, mainly due to a shortage of appropriately sized organs for them,” says Heung Bae Kim, MD, director of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Transplant Center. “It’s a troubling statistic, but there are things that can be done to change that.”

The change Kim is referring to would alter current donor organ allocation policies to make more livers available for a special surgical technique called split liver transplantation. Split liver transplantation occurs when a donated adult liver is carefully segmented into two unequally sized portions—the larger segment is given to an adult patient and the smaller portion to a child—saving two people from a single organ.

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