U.S. surgeons say they have successfully completed a six-organ transplant on a 15-month-old Arab-Israeli girl. From Miami, VOA's Brian Wagner reports she is the second child in the same family to undergo the intensive procedure in the United States.
Doctors at the University of Miami's Jackson Memorial Medical Center say Halla Awad is doing well after the more than eight-hour operation last month.
Surgeons performed the multi-organ transplant because of a disease that affects the 15-month-old girl's digestive system, impairing her ability to absorb nutrients from food. They say the rare condition known as microvillous inclusion disease is fatal, if not treated.
Pediatric gastroenterologist Erick Hernandez, who helped treat Halla, said patients with the condition suffer massive diarrhea and need constant feeding.
"The end result is permanent replacement of fluids as well as nutrients through an intra-venous way," he said. "The end result of that type of nutrition is quite often, I would say most times, is chronic liver disease."
In Halla's case, Hernandez said they needed to transplant the liver, stomach, pancreas, spleen, and small and large intestines.
Doctors at Jackson Memorial perform dozens of similar operations each year. But they say Halla weighed four and a half kilograms at the time, making her one of the smallest children to undergo the procedure.
Because of her small size, doctors at the facility spent about seven months trying to feed her and build her strength ahead of the operation. The hospital's director of pediatric transplants, Tomoaki Kato, said it was a risky period of waiting.
"This little girl, Halla, was very sick before transplant," he explained. "She almost died once in the hospital while waiting for the organs, so it was a rocky road for the family."
In fact, it has been a difficult road for Halla, as well as her older sister, Janna. Last August, Janna, 2, underwent a similar multiple organ transplant to address the congenital disease. Since then, doctors say she has recovered well and has returned home with her father to the Haifa area in northern Israel.
The girls' mother, Hala Awad, said she also hopes to return home once her younger daughter recovers fully. And she expressed thanks to families of the donor children.
"I think to give a life to another family makes it easier to handle the loss of their precious kids," she said. "I wish I could meet both families that gave my daughters the organs, just to say they saved my daughters' lives."
The girls' mother said she hopes both of her daughters continue to recover to lead normal lives. She also said the family is welcoming donations to pay for the girls' medical care.