‘It was a miracle’: Cork grandmother shares world’s first intestine transplant for baby Emma

A Cork grandmother celebrates after her young granddaughter became the world’s first recipient of an intestinal transplant.

Elen O’Sullivan, who is originally from Blarney in Co Cork but has lived in Spain for 47 years, says her granddaughter Emma was born with a short intestine.

Her health was rapidly declining until she had a multivisceral transplant at La Paz Hospital in Madrid five months ago.

In addition to the intestines, the 17-month-old also received a new liver, stomach, spleen and pancreas.

The state-of-the-art operation lasted 14 hours. Emma has now received a perfect health certificate.

Emma received the organ through asystole donation. In such surgery, the donor’s organs are artificially preserved through a system known as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation.

The intestine had to be removed before the donor died as it would have deteriorated immediately after death.

Ms O’Sullivan told the Opinion Line on Cork’s 96FM that her granddaughter, daughter of her son Daniel Lafora O’Sullivan, has made a remarkable recovery since the arduous surgery.
“She’s a pretty little girl. She is absolutely thriving at the moment.

“Fantastic. Fully recovered. When Anna, the mother, was eight months pregnant they diagnosed that the (baby’s) bowel was just a little too short. That was it.”

“They said ‘don’t worry, when the baby is born there will be a little surgery and everything will be fine’.

“Of course it was complicated when the baby was born. The gut itself wasn’t just short, it was ultra-short. So a transplant was the only way.”

Ms O’Sullivan said Emma was hospitalized for six months after she was born.

“She had four surgeries before the transplant. Of course without success. The team that operated conducted research for only three years, which was very little. Emma’s case had deteriorated so much that they had no choice (other than having the surgery).

“They said, ‘We’re going to try. It’s a very risky operation’. Of all transplants, the intestine has the highest risk of failure. It’s a living organ.

“Not only did she have the liver transplant, she also had the spleen, intestines and of course the pancreas. It was a very difficult transplant, as you can imagine. It all happened so suddenly.”

Helen says they “got a new baby back” after the procedure.

“The organ had to be transplanted and it wasn’t allowed to deteriorate in the meantime. Everything went so fast.

“It was the worst day of our lives and then the best day. They kept him alive until Emma arrived. It lasted 14 hours in the operating room.

“We waited outside. The little baby was in intensive care for four days, not knowing if it was a success. The most important thing is that she didn’t have any rejection whatsoever. No side effects. That’s why it was so successful.

“It could have been rejection. The surgeons are happy about their breakthrough because it is a breakthrough for other patients. All organs come from the same baby. “

Helen said the surgeons went above and beyond their call of duty.

“They came to see the baby every day. The surgeon gave us our whole life back because we had no quality of life before the operation.

“Emma had blood transfusions once a month and we feared she wouldn’t make it as she was getting smaller and smaller.

“It was a miracle. But it is very sad for the parents who agreed to donate when their baby passed away.”

She added that the entire cost of the operation and of caring for her grandson would be covered by the state in Spain.

“If we had to pay, we would have had to sell everything we owned.”

Meanwhile, Francisco Hernadez Oliveros, head of pediatric surgery at La Paz Hospital, said earlier this week at a news conference at the hospital that the surgery was a “groundbreaking intervention.”

“This is very promising for other children who may be in the same situation as Emma.”

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/health/this-was-a-miracle-cork-grandmother-tells-of-global-first-intestine-transplant-for-baby-emma-42066964.html ‘It was a miracle’: Cork grandmother shares world’s first intestine transplant for baby Emma

Fry Electronics Team

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