'Miracle Kid's' New Liver Gives Her a New Lease on Life

May 30, 2001

Thanks to a liver transplant she received at Children's Hospital at Strong last fall, Alani Young and her family are experiencing life's wonders in new ways every day.

"Alani and her family faced a great deal of adversity, and met each challenge with patience and perseverance," says Neil Herendeen, M.D., Alani's physician and director of the pediatric practice at Children's Hospital at Strong. "We hope this liver transplant gives Alani a fresh start, and a chance to be a regular kid."

As part of its Miracle Weekend celebration May 31 to June 3, Children's Hospital at Strong is honoring five children - including Alani - as Miracle Kids. Each child overcame significant health problems at Children's Hospital at Strong.

Alani's Story

Even during happy times, life hasn't been easy for Alani and her family. In December 1999, the Make-a-Wish Foundation sent them to Florida for a Walt Disney cruise. Unfortunately, Alani became ill and had to fly back to Rochester, where she was admitted to Children's Hospital at Strong to spend yet another holiday.

Alani suffers from methylmalonic acidemia, a life-threatening metabolic disorder in which acid levels build up in the blood, causing many organs to function improperly. Despite aggressive treatment, the seven-year-old showed signs of kidney failure, bone-marrow failure, neurologic impairment and pancreatic damage.

Although they were constantly looking for new therapies, Alani's doctors knew the only real chance for a cure was to remove the girl's liver and replace it with a healthful one. Last June, the decision was made to pursue a liver transplant for Alani before she suffered irreversible damage to her pancreas or kidneys.

After being hospitalized for nearly five months during the summer and fall, Alani received a new liver. The surgery was performed by Luis Mieles, M.D., a transplant

surgeon at Children's Hospital at Strong.

Mieles flew from Rochester to New York City, where he removed the liver from the donor, and then immediately returned to Rochester to perform the lifesaving surgery on Alani. She received half of the donor liver; an adult who was also in need of a transplant received the rest.

Just as she did before her transplant, Alani faced a number of challenges after surgery and has overcome them one at a time. She is eating regular food for the first time in her life and is making up for lost time at school and at home.

"The difference between who my girl was then and who she is today is incredible," says Sharon Young, Alani's mother. "Miracles really do happen."

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