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Doctors Remove Six Vital Organs to Save Girl's Life

A seven-year-old girl is home, recovering from an historic surgery. Doctors removed six of her vital organs to get to a cancerous tumor. They then put half of the organs back in. The surgery was the first of its kind in a child, and only the second time this kind of surgery was performed.

Doctors told Heather McNamara's parents her cancer was inoperable until they met Dr. Tomoaki Kato at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

Dr. Kato had done this surgery once before on a woman in Florida, and he thought the chances for success on a child were good.

"We were very confident that we can do this surgery successfully," he said. "But at the same time, we want to be prepared for everything."

In February, seven-year-old Heather went into surgery to have a tumor the size of a tennis ball removed.

Dr. Kato worked with three surgical teams to take out the tumor that was tangled around several vital organs and major blood vessels.

"What we did was to cut all the abdominal organs, including liver, stomach, pancreas, small bowel and large bowel and spleen, these six organs together with the tumor completely out of the body," Dr. Kato explained.

The organs were cut away from the tumor and then put back in Heather's abdomen.
Because the cancer had spread, doctors said they could not save the stomach, pancreas or spleen.

So they made a stomach out of intestinal tissue. But without a pancreas, Heather is now diabetic and insulin dependent.

Heather's parents had consulted with hospitals from Miami to Philadelphia before they met Dr. Kato at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

Heather's mom, Tina McNamara, said, "I just want to say to whoever's out there who has a medical problem, a child with a medical problem ?"

Heather finishes her mom's thought, "That there is hope."

Doctors will have to watch Heather to make sure the cancer does not return. But despite these issues, they consider her a miracle girl.