New Liver Gives Henrietta Girl a Special Reason to Celebrate

December 26, 2000

Little more than a month after she was discharged from Children's Hospital at Strong after receiving a new liver, Alani Young and her family will celebrate New Year's Day with a fresh sense of optimism and hope.

"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."

Even during happy times, life hasn't been easy for Alani and her family. Last December, 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 medical treatment and a special liquid diet fed through a gastric tube, 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. In 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. He 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 now eating regular food for the first time in her life and is making up for lost time at school and at home. She returned to school full-time last week, ahead of schedule.

"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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