A 6-year-old Jacksonville girl’s life was saved by Miami doctors who performed a “combined” transplant of a liver, kidney and pancreas – the first such operation ever done.
Angela Bushi was born healthy, but when she was just 1 she developed insulin diabetes, which progressed to a very rare and deadly disease called Wolcott-Rallison syndrome. It causes problems that include diabetes, liver and or kidney failure, growth problems, or death.
"Most children actually died during liver failure or complications due to liver failure,” said Dr. Olaf Bodamer of the University of Miami Health System.
There are only 82 published cases of WRS in the world, and in her life Angela has struggled to survive. But today she is a walking and talking medical miracle after she was given a second chance at life by a team of surgeons who defied the odds.
Doctors at Holtz Children's Hospital and the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine were able to do the combined transplant. Besides being the first ever done, it was the first performed on a child, said Dr. Andreas Tzakis of the Miller School.
"This is a miracle what they did to her,” said Valbona Bushi, Angela’s mother, who said she is very grateful because her other daughter died from the same disease.
She feared Angela would suffer the same fate.
"I was really scared because she was sick … but thank God everything looks good,” she said.
The road to recovery was a long one for the bright-eyed precious young girl – but doctors now say they are confident Angela will have a healthy future. Thanks to the combined transplant, she no longer requires insulin treatment.
"Many of us are extremely happily surprised that we could get her to this point,” said Dr. Michael Nares of the UM Health System. “But that's what happens when you put a great team together."
Doctors are hoping to perform combined transplants on other children suffering from the same syndrome.