When she was five, Alannah Shevenell's doctors discovered the cause of her fever, weight loss, and distended belly—a sizable tumor spreading throughout her body. After two failed surgeries and rounds of chemo, her doctors had just one option left; a risky surgery to replace six of her cancerous organs.
Shevenell's surgery, which replaced her stomach, liver, spleen, small intestine, pancreas and a portion of her esophagus in October, has proven a success. Not only has Shevenell returned home to Portland, Maine, the surgery marks both the largest number of simultaneous transplants performed in the New England area and the first time ever that an esophagus has been replaced, worldwide.
Shevenell suffered from a rare form of sarcoma. As her tumor spread, filled with fluid and it pressed against her organs, making eating difficult. She spent more than a year on waiting lists for donor organs and had only a 50-percent chance of making it through the operation.
"It's probably one of the most extensive tumor removals ever done," said Dr. Heung Bae Kim, the lead surgeon on the procedure at Children's Hospital Boston. The tumor and all six organs had to be replaced in a single surgical procedure. According to Kim, difficulty lay in cutting the damaged and cancerous bits out while minimizing blood loss. The girl then spent another three months in the hospital, recuperating from infections and battling complications before being allowed to go home yesterday.
She does face additional challenges including having to swallow nine separate medications multiple times per day, stay on a highly restricted diet (raw fruits and vegetables are out), and has to use both an colostomy pouch and a feeding tube for sustenance until she can feed herself. [Medical Express]