One Liver Saves Two Lives

Unknown to each other, Karen Torrey, a 70-year-old woman from Redlands, Calif., and Matthew, a 1-year-old boy from Lafayette, LA, would soon be connected for life after both facing death.

Karen suffered from an auto-immune disease which severely damaged her liver and kidneys and needed a transplant. Locating a match in California was difficult and her journey led her to the Ochsner Multi-Organ Transplant Institute to beat the odds.

Thousands of miles away, Baby Matthew was suffering with biliary atresia, a condition where the bile ducts don’t form correctly during fetal development, causing his liver to malfunction. In and out of the hospital since birth, he too was in desperate need of a liver transplant.

With more than 17,000 patients nationwide on the liver waiting list, Karen and Matthew were fighting for their lives hoping to receive a second chance at life. Only 6,000 transplants are performed each year, leaving children at a disadvantage due to the shortage of small pediatric donors.

On November 11, 2013, both families received a long-awaited call. One liver was available, and both Karen and Matthew were perfect matches.

In order to save both patients, the talented team of physicians, nurses and medical professionals at Ochsner performed a split liver transplant. This advanced procedure literally divides the liver from a deceased adult donor into two lobes to save two patients. The left lobe was transplanted into Matthew, and the right lobe was given to Karen, giving both patients the gift of life. Karen also received a kidney transplant.

The surgery was successful, and both patients headed home for the holidays. Two unlikely patients now share a bond thanks to this life-saving surgery.

“As a physician, the most gratifying thing is to see patients so sick with advanced liver disease to be restored to the quality of life before they got sick,” says Nigel Girgrah, MD, Hepatologist and Medical Director of the Ochsner Multi-Organ Transplant Institute.

“This little guy is connected to me,” says Karen. “It’s amazing that I have this opportunity. What a wonderful gift to look at him and realize that he will live and I’m alive!”

If you would like to become a donor, you can register at www.ochsner.org/savenine.