US surgeons save Italian baby's life with eight new organs

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The Independent US

Wearing a pink dress, an Italian baby girl who received eight new organs in a single transplant operation cried and cooed yesterday as her mother held her in her arms.

"Her biggest feeling is happiness," said a doctor who was translating for Monica Di Matteo, 39, mother of Alessia, seven-and-a-half months. On her daughter's future, the mother was "hoping for a normal life." Alessia, of Genoa, was born with congenital smooth muscle disorder, which prevented normal function of her stomach, intestines and kidneys. The condition is fatal if untreated.

She underwent an operation six weeks ago at Jackson Memorial Hospital, in Miami, Florida, in which received a new liver, stomach, pancreas, small intestine, large intestine, spleen and two kidneys. Dr Andreas Tzakis, the lead surgeon, said the organs were taken from the same donor and transplanted together.

Dr Tzakis said doctors would be cautious with Alessia during her first year after the surgery. She is expected to remain in Miami for several weeks under observation.

"We are not at ease at all about the baby's condition and we're going to be quite nervous for the first year," Dr Tzakis said yesterday.

A transplant team from the University of Miami performed the 12-hour operation on 31 January, when Alessia was six months old.

The transplant was a record for the hospital, which is one of the leading centres for "multi-visceral" operations, having done nearly 100 in the last 10 years, Dr Tzakis said. More than 80 per cent of patients survive the first year after the surgery, he said.

Officials said the previous record-holder for a multiple organ transplant was another Italian baby, Eugenia Borgo, who had a seven-organ transplant in 1997. The girl is now in grade school and healthy, Dr Tzakis said.

Before the transplants, Alessia was hospital-bound with multiple infections. She now weighs about 5.8kg (13 pounds) and is fed through a tube, but is out of the intensive care unit, Dr Tzakis said.

Doctors are monitoring her intestines, which are most likely to develop infections.