A 9-year-old Maine girl, Alannah is heading home after a groundbreaking multiple organ transplant at Children's Hospital Boston, where transplant surgeons replaced five of her abdominal organs (liver, stomach, spleen, pancreas, small intestine) and her esophagus to save her from a rare and aggressive cancer (myofibroblastic tumor). The operation was led by Dr. Heung Bae Kim, director of the hospital's Pediatric Transplant Center.
This was one of the most extensive transplant surgeries as the finger-like tendrils of the tumor entwined the organs in tangles. Alannah was diagnosed with the cancer at the age of 4. Chemotherapy did not work for her. Previously the surgeons tried to cut away chunks of the tumor to limit its size, but it kept returning and went up her esophagus. The benign tumor kept growing, enveloping the organs in her abdomen and moving up into her chest. Her health began to deteriorate. Doctors concluded that transplant was the only option.
AdvertisementFinally on October 28 Alannah underwent a transplant surgery that lasted more than 14 hours. The doctors removed the tumor from her body, peeling it off her aorta, and cutting out her organs. The new organs came from one donor and were removed as an intact unit, which simplified the surgery. Alannah had to undergo a follow-up operation to stop fluid from leaking into her chest, as much as 2-3 liters per day.
Finnaly 98-days post the surgery Alannah can go back home and will be able to lead an almost normal life. Alannah is required to take 11 pills in the morning and 12 at night, mostly to prevent her body from rejecting the new organs. She has to take precautions to avoid infections as the drugs tamp down her immune system.
Hospital authorities claim it to be the first known esophageal transplant in the world and the largest number of organs transplanted into a person at one time in New England.