For children with organ failure or damage that medicine alone can’t remedy, transplantation offers a hope for the future. A transplanted donor organ can maximize the chance for survival and improve a child’s quality of life. This very special gift comes to dozens of children each year through Transplant Services at Texas Children’s Hospital and through the philanthropy of donors who so generously support this area.
In 2015, Texas Children’s surgeons performed 86 solid organ transplants, making our program one of the largest and most active pediatric transplant programs in the country.
The Transplant Services team often has success with cases other programs might consider untreatable. For example, they performed the hospital’s first triple heart, lung and liver transplant in one procedure — one of only three ever performed in the United States. Texas Children’s surgeons also performed the first pediatric lung-kidney transplant in the nation. Since 2004, nine patients at Texas Children’s have received double organ transplants — liver-kidney, liver-lung, heart-lung, heart-kidney and lung-kidney. And on March 11, 2016, renal transplant surgeons set a record, completing four kidney transplants in 18 hours.
In addition to providing the best possible care for every child who comes to us, including those who cannot find care elsewhere, Transplant Services is advancing research and education in the field and has hosted two major conferences. The group hosted its first Transplant Symposium in 2014. It was a highly rated event, and on September 4, 2015, 184 individuals attended the second symposium.
“Texas Children’s continues to earn its reputation as having one of the best pediatric transplant programs in the country,” Dr. John Goss, medical director of Transplant Services, said. “We continue to produce great outcomes for our patients, and I believe our success is a testimony to the skill and commitment of our multidisciplinary team.”
The following stories demonstrate why transplantation is often called the most amazing medical miracle.
Clara Boddie and Her Grandmother’s Gift
Like any grandmother, Cindy Smith wanted to pass something special on to her first grandbaby, Clara Boddie. It turned out to be something that no one could have imagined.
“Doctors discovered Clara’s kidney problem during my pregnancy but said we couldn’t do anything more at the time other than monitor her condition through weekly ultrasounds,” Clara’s mother, Kate Boddie of San Antonio, said. “So I spent a lot of time praying.”
Clara was placed on dialysis just a week after being born with a single impaired kidney. But in March of 2015, Kate’s prayers were answered when it was discovered that her mother Cindy’s kidney was a perfect match for Clara. Cindy eagerly volunteered to be the organ donor for her granddaughter.
Experts at Texas Children’s successfully performed the transplant surgery that restored Clara’s health — the best possible gift for her and her family. Cindy had the opportunity to give the kidney that saved and changed her granddaughter’s life. Knowing her mother was not only healthy, but also willing to be a living donor, Kate was able to focus her attention and energy on Clara. She stayed with her daughter at Texas Children’s for six weeks after the surgery. During this time, she watched Clara progress daily with the compassionate, quality care that the transplant team provided.
“I am so blown away by how much a transplant affects someone,” Kate said. “Clara is extremely healthy and is growing and doing well.”
Juliana Graves, Texas Children’s Youngest Heart Transplant Patient
Riki and Chris Graves of Corpus Christi have much to celebrate — most notably, Riki’s life and the life of their two-year-old daughter Juliana — both of which were at stake just a few years ago.
On her 38th birthday, Riki received a diagnosis of breast cancer. At the time, she was six weeks pregnant with her second child. A move to Houston for cancer treatment put Riki and Chris closer to Texas Children’s Hospital, where experts diagnosed another life-threatening condition: a congenital heart defect known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome in their unborn daughter.
Riki postponed her cancer treatments to ensure the best possible outcome for Juliana. She soon learned that her daughter’s best chance for survival depended on the availability of a donor’s heart and the skilled hands of Texas Children’s heart transplant team. But the situation looked even more grim when heart failure prompted Juliana’s early delivery at just 36 weeks on April 9, 2014.
“Juliana’s underdeveloped heart was so malformed that it could not be repaired,” Dr. Jeff Dreyer, medical director of the Cardiac Transplant Program at Texas Children’s, said. “The only option was to perform a heart transplant, but she didn’t have three to six months to wait for an organ donor.”
Miraculously, a heart became available just five days after Juliana’s parents placed her on the wait list. Juliana’s transplant surgery was a success, and she became the youngest heart transplant patient in the history of Texas Children’s. Not long after, Riki finished her cancer treatment.
Today, both Juliana and Riki are doing well, something the Graves family celebrates every day. They also give thanks for those who share the precious gift of life through organ donation.
Bella Tomlinson, a Superstar Who Has Weathered Life’s Storm
Bella Tomlinson was born in 2011 at 34 weeks in Jacksonville, North Carolina, amid the fury of Hurricane Irene. Unfortunately, this was not the only storm she faced early in life. Bella was home for only about a month after her birth before her mother sensed something was wrong and took her to the doctor.
“It sounded like she had a cold, but her oxygen level wasn’t registering,” her mother Maya said. “She had a bad set of lungs and was put on a ventilator at just two months old.”
After doctors had conducted what seemed like every test possible, there was still no clear explanation of what was going on with Bella. That’s when one of her doctors advised Maya to reach out to Dr. George Mallory, a pediatric pulmonologist at Texas Children’s. Practically over the phone, Dr. Mallory diagnosed Bella with a rare genetic disorder. A team from the Kangaroo Crew, Texas Children’s emergency transport system, brought Bella and her mother to the hospital, where her diagnosis was confirmed. Bella needed a double lung transplant.
Maya found out on a Saturday morning that a set of donor lungs had become available. By 6:30 that evening, the doctors reported that all had gone well with Bella’s transplantation surgery. She now had a second chance at life.
“It’s amazing to see how far Bella has come,” Maya said. “She is a normal, energetic four-year-old as well as a superstar and an inspiration to a lot of people.”
A Promise to Care for All Children in Need of Critical Care
More children like Clara, Juliana and Bella are coming to Texas Children’s every day for the high-quality critical care that the hospital’s specialists provide. Texas Children’s is committed to meeting even the most complex medical needs of every one of its patients. That’s one of the reasons for the construction of a new Pediatric Tower at its Texas Medical Center (TMC) campus, which will allow for the expansion and enhancement of all critical, surgical and emergency care services.
The 19-story Pediatric Tower will house additional intensive care units (ICUs) that will be located in close proximity to 12 high-acuity operating rooms. Each ICU room will have sufficient space for the patient’s family and all the advanced equipment and technology used today to deliver the best care possible. In addition, The Meyer and Ida Gordon Emergency Center will be redesigned and expanded to provide more space for families and patients who are waiting for care, and to increase efficiency in the delivery of this care. This is one of the highest priorities within the Promise Campaign.
Ongoing philanthropic support from the community will help Texas Children’s continue to fulfill its promise to provide all children with the best care possible. Every donor plays a vital role in giving children a second chance at life.