In June 1998, Jackie Sorensen noticed something wasn’t quite right with her daughter, Lexie. At just 6 months old, Lexie’s stomach was extending and she was having trouble breathing. Jackie decided to bring Lexie to Primary Children’s Hospital. Doctors discovered her infant daughter had a tumor on her liver, and would need a liver transplant. Testing determined that Jackie’s liver was a perfect match for Lexie. A week later, Lexie was among the first patients to receive a liver transplant at Primary Children’s Hospital.
Sometimes a portion of a liver can be donated from a living person, like a parent. This is called a living-related donor transplant. A person who donates part of his or her liver can have a normal-sized liver again, because livers are organs that grow new cells on their own (called regeneration). “It wasn’t easy,” says Jackie, Lexie’s liver donor and mom. “But I would do it again in a heartbeat to save my daughter’s life.”
Celebrating 200 Pediatric Liver Transplants
18 years later, Primary Children’s has helped more than 200 children like Lexie receive liver transplants. This month the team held a special picnic to celebrate almost 20 years and 200 lives saved. Additionally, more than 90% of those patients are living healthy lives. Staff, patients and their families gathered to enjoy food, face-painting, snow cones, and reconnecting with old friends.
“What an amazing experience to come and see the kids outside the hospital and clinic setting,” says Linda Book, MD, Chief of the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition. “They aren’t being timid like they are during a checkup. They are just being kids. I look out at the crowd and if I didn’t know these children personally, I wouldn’t be able to tell who was a patient and who was a sibling.”
The Liver Transplant team includes physicians, surgeons, specialists, nurses, social workers, and dieticians. “It’s so rewarding to be part of a fantastic team that is one of the best in the country,” says Dr. Book. “It’s also important to acknowledge the courage of those who have made the decision to be organ donors — both a living donor and the families of those who have passed on.” Of the 200 liver transplants done at Primary Children's Hospital, 30 have been from living donors.
Lexie is grateful for the care she received at Primary Children’s and from Dr. Book. “I’ve known her basically all my life,” says Lexie, now age 18. “She is the best and I hope she lives forever.”
About the Pediatric Liver Transplant Program
The Pediatric Liver Transplant program at Primary Children's Hospital provides comprehensive care for children with liver disease every step of the way - from diagnosis, to transplantation, and follow up care. A multidisciplinary care team helps patients and families navigate the complicated, overwhelming, and emotional process.
The team has transplant specific physicians, surgeons, nurse coordinators, assistants, child life specialists, social workers, pharmacists, and a financial coordinator. All team members are experts in pediatric transplants.