First esophagus transplant: Alannah Shevenell sets world record (Video)
BOSTON, MA, USA -- Doctors at Children's Hospital Boston replaced Alannah Shevenell's stomach, liver, spleen, small intestine, pancreas and a portion of her esophagus , setting the world record for the first esophagus transplant, according to World Record Academy (www.worldrecordacademy.com).
Photo: Doctors at Children's Hospital Boston replaced Alannah Shevenell's stomach, liver, spleen, small intestine, pancreas and a portion of her esophagus in October. It's believed to be the first-ever transplant of an esophagus and the largest number of organs transplanted at one time in New England. AP Photos/Robert F. Bukaty (enlarge photo)
The Guinness world record for first triple transplant (heart-lung-liver) patient was Davina Thompson (b. 28 February 1951 - d. 13 August 1998) of Rawmarsh, South Yorkshire, UK. On 17 December 1986 at Papworth Hospital, Cambridge, she underwent surgery for seven hours by a team of 15 headed by chest surgeon Mr John Wallwork and Prof. Sir Roy Calne (both UK) .
Guinness World Records also recognized the world record for the earliest brain cell transplant, performed by a team of doctors from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pennsylvania, USA, on 23 June 1998.
Alannah Shevenell, a 9-year-old Maine girl is home from a Boston hospital healthy, active and with high hopes -- and a new stomach, liver, spleen, small intestine, pancreas, and part of an esophagus to replace the ones that were being choked by a huge tumor.
It's the first-ever transplant of an esophagus and the largest number of organs transplanted at one time in New England.
Spunky and bright-eyed as she scampered around her family's farmhouse outside Portland, Alannah Shevenell said that she's glad to be feeling well again and able to go sledding, make a snowman, work on her scrapbooks and give her grandmother a little good-humored sass. Photo: Alannah Shevenell, 9, and her grandmother, Debi Skolas, speak to a reporter at their home in Hollis, Maine. Doctors at Children's Hospital Boston replaced Alannah Shevenell's stomach, liver, spleen, small intestine, pancreas and a portion of her esophagus in October. AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty (enlarge photo)
The best part, though? "Being home," she said. "Just being home."
It was 2008 when Alannah, then 5, began running a fever and losing weight while her belly swelled. Doctors discovered the tumor that year and twice attempted to remove it, as it made its way like octopus legs from organ to organ. But it was difficult to access what turned out to be a rare form of sarcoma, said Debi Skolas, Alannah's grandmother, and chemotherapy didn't do the trick, either.
All the time, the growth — known as an inflammatory myofibroblastic tumor — continued to grow in her abdomen, causing pain, making it hard to eat and swelling her up with fluid. Surgery was the last resort to save her life, and Alannah spent more than a year on a waiting list for the organs, said Dr. Heung Bae Kim, the lead surgeon on the procedure at Children's Hospital Boston.
The hardest part was taking out her organs and the tumor, Kim said, calling it a difficult operation with lots of blood loss. Photo: Alannah Shevenell, 9, rides on a sled with her grandfather, Jamie Skolas, at their home in Hollis, Maine. Hospital officials say it was the first known esophageal transplant in the world and the largest number of organs transplanted into a person at one time in New England. AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty (enlarge photo)
"It's probably one of the most extensive tumor removals ever done," the surgeon said.
Alannah has to take nine medications each day, some two, three or four times. Her grandparents have to precisely measure what goes in and comes out of her body, and check her blood sugar.
She has an ostomy pouch and feeding tube attached to her for nutrition as she slowly gets used to eating again. Scars from her surgeries look like a roadmap on her stomach. A tutor comes to the home 20 hours a week for her schooling.
Her immune system is so weak that she can't go to places with large numbers of other people, such as school, church or a mall.
She can't eat raw vegetables or fruits unless they have thick skins because of concerns over germs, and she'll never be able to swim in a lake because of the bacteria.
The Skolases installed ultraviolet lights in their heating ducts to kill mold, mildew and bacteria that might sicken Alannah.
The Skolases, who took Alannah in several years ago but declined to discuss the whereabouts of her parents, have made sacrifices for her through the years. Their hand-crafted-furniture business has suffered, with Debi devoting her time to care for Alannah, and the couple has dipped into retirement savings to make ends meet.
Friends have organized a fundraiser to help raise money to offset the costs.