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Spring 1998
To Save Two Lives
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“OK,” says Busuttil. “I’m going to give it another try.” Leaning over, his concentration just as focused as it was nearly four hours earlier when the surgery began, Busuttil lifts Andrew’s diseased liver out of his body.

Next door, members of the transplant team have removed Angel Hernandez’ liver. It’s hard and gray and mottled as a stone. In neither operating room do the surgeons stop to savor their success nor pause to rest. Their work is only halfway done.

Standing off quietly to the side in O.R. 1, Goss gets ready to sew in Andrew’s new liver. He pulls on surgical gloves and adjusts his surgical glasses.

“Can we get some music, please?” requests Busuttil.

It is 9 p.m. and the Rolling Stones begin to play. The transplant team won’t finish its work until midnight.

Andrew is reborn. Some babies who have transplants experience rejection within the first 48 hours. Andrew’s recovery has been amazing. A large scar zigzags all the way across his pale thin belly, another line snakes up his chest. But those are the only signs he was a seriously ill little boy.

He was released from the hospital after only two weeks, sooner than some transplant babies, wheeled away from his third-floor room in a Radio Flyer wagon filled with toys. “He’s very happy,” says Jadonne. “He’s back to his old self. He was a sweetheart in the hospital. But as soon as he got back home, he started ordering everyone around!”

She has observed a profound change in her son. “With my other two kids, when they were little,” she explains, “you’d look at them and smile, and they’d smile back at you. Andrew never did that. I chalked it up to his personality. But since the surgery, every time I smile at him, he smiles at me. And it dawned on me: He must not have felt good. Now he smiles all the time.” Andrew will, for the rest of his life, be on a strict regimen of immunosuppressants so his body does not reject his new liver. For the first 100 days, Jadonne also has to give him antiviral drugs through a central IV line. As he gets older, he will face emotional and physical challenges related to the transplant. Some young children who’ve been transplanted don’t grow as much as they should. Later, they lag behind academically. And when they reach adolescence, some become angry or depressed about their medical condition and stop taking their medication. “We’re increasingly aware you can’t just transplant these children and think you’re home-free,” says Dr. McDiarmid. “These children require monitoring throughout their lives.”

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