Simultaneous liver transplant saves teen, tot

December 24, 2009 4:58:05 AM PST
Doctors in Chicago perform life-saving transplants on two boys at the same time. The simultaneous transplants were a first for doctors at Children's Memorial Hospital.A 17-year-old and a 2-year-old both received a portion of the same liver. The eight-hour surgery was performed on Friday. Wednesday night both boys were recovering.

Children's Memorial has been successful at splitting livers where the other half will go on to an adult at another hospital. Last Friday's transplant is the first time Children's Memorial was able to the use a split liver for two of their patients.

The liver came from a confidential donor and it came just in time for both boys.

Christian Liberto is a 17-year-old high school senior from north suburban Highland Park. Two-year-old Frank Sroka is from the South Side.

They may be 15 years apart but the two boys and their families will share a bond like no other for the rest of their lives.

"What a wonderful gift. He has made our Christmas brighter," said Marci Johnson, Christian's mother.

The gift is a donated liver-- split and then transplanted into both Christian and Frank.

"Both of them had so many complications of chronic liver disease and both had been on the waiting list for over a year," said Dr. Estella Alonso, Children's Memorial Hospital.

For the first time at Children's Memorial, two teams performed transplants at the same time. Because Frank was the primary recipient, doctors began his surgery first. Doctors say they do not know if a liver can be split until the process starts.

"Once we determined we could, we pulled Christian into the room and the transplant started two hours after one another," said Dr. Riccardo Superina, Children's Memorial Hospital.

In the waiting room were two mothers who had never met-- Gia Sroka and Marci Johnson. They instantly became each others biggest supporters.

"I knew what she was feeling. She knew what I was feeling. We were grieving for the family. It came in waves," said Gia Sroka, Frank's mother.

The surgery was a success for both kids. The reality of how dire their health was before the transplant took hold today for both families.

"I tried not to think he could have died, but he could have," said Marci Johnson, Christian's mother.

Christian has spent all of his teenage years very sick. In a soft voice, he said he had almost given up on life. Doctors say a new liver has given him and Frank a fresh start.

"Now he can be whatever he wants to be. And that is just wonderful," said Gia Sroka, Frank's mother.


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