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Spring 1998
To Save Two Lives
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When the family arrived at the hospital for the second time, they learned the donor organ would be split. Hernandez would receive the right lobe, the larger part, while a child would get the right lobe (CK right lobe above), the smaller portion. “I thought it was good,” says Angel, “that my father was going to share the liver with a little kid. It was like a blessing.”

The little kid was Andrew Gyswyt.

At 5:15 p.m., Angel, his 16-year-old brother, Daniel, and their mother said good-bye to Hernandez as he lay on a gurney in the operating wing, ready to be wheeled into the O.R. He probably did not hear them. He was in a coma.

The Gyswyts are saying good-bye to Andrew. He is wearing a child-sized hospital gown, and is leaning against his mother’s chest, his legs limp as a rag doll’s. Jadonne, dressed in dark sweat clothes and looking worn, confers with one of the doctors. “It could be midnight, it could be 11, it could be 1,” he says, predicting the time the operation may end.

“Hi darlin’,” says a nurse in blue scrubs. She gently pries Andrew from the arms of his mother. Andrew cries feebly, like a frightened kitten, his tiny hands grabbing the air before he disappears through a door down the hall. His parents are left alone, their baby’s stroller of toys and diapers and medicines beside them, a mylar balloon with the words “Get Well!” floating idly above the handle. They push the stroller down the hall, through double doors into the elevator and up to the waiting room.

Busuttil races down the hallway, his surgical garb on. He’s about to begin Andrew’s surgery. This will be his 34th split-liver operation since 1996, but he is not complacent. “If everything doesn’t go perfectly,” he says, “the chances of the procedure failing are significant. That’s the crucial thing about these operations -- there’s zero tolerance for error.”

Soon members of the transplant team wheel Angel Hernandez into Operating Room 2. He lies on a gurney, oblivious to his surroundings, tubes springing from his body everywhere. Three surgeons inspect his IVs.

 

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