One week ago today, I spent the day in two operating rooms of Comer Children’s Hospital at the University of Chicago Medical Center filming a living-donor liver transplant surgery. In one room, the patient was 27-year-old Catherine Ortiz, who had agreed to donate about a quarter of her liver to a co-worker’s young daughter. That patient, 11-month-old Raquel Allen, was brought into an adjacent operating room after doctors confirmed that Ortiz’s liver would be suitable for transplant.
After four hours of surgery, a portion of Ortiz’s liver had been removed and placed on ice as Raquel’s defective liver (she suffers from the congenital disorder biliary atresia) was removed by a second surgical team next door. After a short trip between operating rooms, surgeons placed the liver fragment in Raquel’s abdomen, then very carefully sewed blood vessels and bile ducts together to fully connect the new organ with the infant’s circulatory and digestive systems. At 4:30 p.m., Raquel’s incision was closed, and her new liver began its work – a medical achievement impossible until 20 years ago, now accomplished in less than 8 hours.
Below is a video that takes you inside those operating rooms for a glimpse at this amazing procedure. Since it is surgery, there is some blood and graphic footage, so if you are bothered by that sort of thing, take heed.
Catherine Ortiz is recovering at home after her discharge from the hospital last Thursday, two days after the procedure. Raquel Allen was moved from the pediatric intensive care unit yesterday, and will remain in the hospital for at least another week, including her birthday this Saturday. We’ll check back in with Raquel and her parents for a video to be posted later this week.