Children's Hospital Los Angeles celebrates 300th liver transplant

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Friday, December 2, 2016
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Children's Hospital Los Angeles celebrated a milestone as it performed its 300th liver transplant.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Transplanting part of a liver from a living person to an infant has become a routine procedure, but it's still complex.

Children's Hospital Los Angeles celebrated a milestone and the many lives living donors have saved.

Just before discharge, the parents of 7-month-old Donovan Daniels got a visitor who gave them a glimpse of their son's future.

Eighteen years ago, Lydia Hand was the first CHLA Pediatric Liver Transplant recipient. Donovan was number 300.

"Three hundred other people just like him. Just like me," Hand said.

Donovan's mother, Jessica Valdepena, was thrilled to see how well Hand was doing nearly two decades later.

"It's amazing to see how far she's come," Valdepena said.

Like Donovan, Hand was born with Biliary Atresia. The condition occurs when bile ducts in and around the liver are blocked.

"If you don't do anything about it, it's deadly. It will kill you, the child," CHLA's Chief of Pediatric Gastroenterology Dr. Daniel W. Thomas explained.

Hand's grandmother donated part of her liver to her. Now Hand is a musician and college freshman.

She was Dr. Yuri Genyk's first transplant patient.

"How accomplished she is and talented and healthy. So it's all a very rewarding experience," said Genyk, the surgical director of CHLA's Pediatric Liver Transplant Program.

Each year in California, 700 liver transplants are performed, but during the same time 500 people waiting for a liver die. For a baby, the odds are much worse.

Today small children can receive a partial cadaver liver of part of a liver from someone living.

"Live donors and split livers have really enabled us to expand the donor pool," Thomas said.

Donovan's dad turned out to be his match. And both are recovering quickly.

Hand's message to Donovan was to be grateful for a second chance at life and make it count.

"Do everything you can. Be involved in a lot of things. Don't think that you have any kind of hindrance because it's really not," Hand said.