When she was five, Alannah Shevenell’s doctors discovered the cause of her fever, weight loss, and distended belly — a sizable tumour 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 did Shevenell return home to Portland, Maine, the surgery marks both the largest number of transplants performed in the New England area and the first time ever that an esophagus has been replaced.
Shevenell suffered from a rare form of sarcoma. As her tumour 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 tumour removals ever done,” said Dr. Heung Bae Kim, the lead surgeon on the procedure at Children’s Hospital Boston. The tumour and damaged organs had to be removed and replaced in a single surgical procedure. According to Kim, difficulty lay in out her organs and the tumour while minimising 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 feeding tube for sustenance until she can feed herself. [Medical Express]