Primary Children’s celebrates its most ever liver transplants getting kids ‘back to normal lives’


SALT LAKE CITY — It would be hard to tell now, but there was a time not very long ago when toddler Brycen McKen’s liver was failing and he was “hovering between this life and the next,” his mother says.

In December 2016, the young boy, then only about 8 months old, was called into surgery at Primary Children’s Hospital after a liver became available for transplant.

“The surgeon came out halfway through the surgery and explained the (liver) infection that was there and that it was about the size of a softball, and that upon removal they could not proceed to transplant because Brycen became unstable,” said Shayli McKen.

She said what followed was a “very humbling Christmas” for the McKen family, from Afton, Wyoming, who spent the holidays “between the motel and the hospital” as Brycen was clinging to life.

A year later, Brycen had improved from his lowest point, but his parents were still waiting desperately for a liver transplant.

On Dec. 30, 2017, the call came again, and this time the surgery was carried through to completion. Brycen, now 2 years old, had been given a second chance at life.

“If you looked at Brycen now, you would never know the story behind his cute, smiling face,” McKen said. “He quickly got rid of his feeding tube. He went from eating nothing by mouth to eating everything he can get his hands on. His two older sisters call him the ‘eater monster.'”

Once weighed down by tubes and pumps even when out of the hospital, Brycen is now “full of energy from the time he wakes up until the moment he goes to bed,” his mother said.

McKen was sharing her story Wednesday at a celebration put on by Primary Children’s Hospital in recognition of 20 successful pediatric liver transplants completed by surgeons there in 2017. That number ranks ninth in the country. It is also record-breaking at Primary Children’s and significantly more than its average of 14 annually, according to hospital officials.

“More importantly … we stand with the very best of all programs in (terms of) outcomes of how well our children are doing,” said Dr. Linda Book, medical director of the Pediatric Liver Disease and Transplant Program at Primary Children’s Hospital. “They’re going back to normal lives of school and playing and being healthy babies, children and toddlers, and it’s so heartwarming to see that change.”

In all, 40 patients at Primary Children’s received either a liver, heart, kidney or bone marrow transplant in 2017. Dr. Manuel Rodriguez-Davalos, surgical director of pediatric liver transplantation at Primary Children’s, said that last year’s liver transplants came from donors in nine states.

Sophie Hansen, 15, from Bountiful, received half of a liver that was split in two in order to benefit both herself and Brycen McKen. Hansen couldn’t be at the celebration Wednesday — not because she wasn’t well enough, but because her recovery is so complete that she was vacationing outside the country with her family.

“I was super excited to be told that it would be …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Business News


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