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University of Iowa News Release

April 12, 2004

UI Team Treats Youngest Liver Transplant Patient

The world's youngest, living, related donor liver transplant patient continues to make excellent progress following her treatment at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

Jim and Kellie Lindley of Port Byron, Ill. were not expecting anything unusual when their daughter, Kaylee, arrived on Nov. 7, 2003, at Genesis Hospital in Davenport. That changed rapidly.

"I kind of knew when they brought her to me to give me that first initial glance and there was blood in her mouth," said Kellie Lindley. "I had a red flag go up right then that there was something not quite right here."

Within hours of her birth, a medical helicopter transported Kaylee to Children's Hospital of Iowa at UI Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City. A team of specialists in Children's Hospital of Iowa and the Liver Transplant Program swiftly evaluated Kaylee.

"The cells that make up the substance of the liver were missing," explained Warren Bishop, M.D., an associate professor and a hepatologist in the UI Department of Pediatrics. "As a result, Kaylee's liver couldn't make clotting factors, couldn't remove poisonous material from the blood, and she required major life supporting care."

Physicians told Kaylee's parents that she would not survive without a liver transplant. At that dark hour, a ray of hope shone through. Tests showed that her father had the same blood type and was a good match to donate a portion of his liver to his baby. As a family medicine physician, Jim Lindley recognized the hurdles his daughter faced.

" We knew that without the transplant, Kaylee wouldn't live," Jim Lindley said. "You would do anything for your child. If it meant taking an organ or a piece of an organ out of you for her, you would sure do that to save her life."

Planning for the transplant began immediately. The team knew they had to work quickly because Kaylee was critically ill. Kaylee's liver failure also placed her at risk for brain damage, swelling and hernias.

"It's a credit to our neonatology staff that they were able to keep this child alive until transplant," Bishop said.

You Min Wu, M.D., a professor of surgery and director of the Liver Transplant Program, knew that he faced a challenging task because Kaylee's small size made the process of vascular reconstruction very difficult.

"All night I was thinking, 'How can I fix this, what's my surgical plan, what are my options?'" Wu said.

Nineteen days after her birth, the transplant team brought Kaylee and her father to the operating rooms where the procedure would take place.

"It was the hardest day of my life," Kellie said. "The day I sent my husband and daughter into surgery, I didn't know if I would see her pink little face again."

Wu performed a left lateral liver transplant. He removed the smallest possible lobe of Jim Lindley's liver, reduced it down to about the size of a small apple and transplanted it into Kaylee. Officials with the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) said that she was the youngest living-related liver transplant patient on record.

The difficulties didn't end there. Because of her small size, her surgeons could not close the incision over her new liver until she grew larger. They had to cover the surgical site with a special mesh. The first 24 hours following the transplant were the most critical.

Kaylee's mother recalls the first time she saw her baby after the transplant. "My husband's downstairs, I'm all by myself, and I thought, we made it this far, and I'm going to lose her after all this," Kellie said.

Kaylee overcame that crisis and every other barrier to her recovery, including eight surgeries to correct complications with her transplanted liver. Finally after three months in the hospital, her grateful parents took her home. Her physicians say she should be able to lead a relatively normal life.

"The people of Iowa need to know that they have a hospital like ours," said Bishop. "We have the depth necessary to make this kind of thing happen, and it's very exciting."

Wu added, "The U.S. Transplant Registry statistics show that our results are among the very best in the nation. We transplanted a similar sized patient two years ago. That patient is doing fine, so we had experience with this type of case. I would say that Kaylee should grow up like a normal kid."

"She's happy, she's gaining weight, she's starting to develop," said Jim Lindley. "Kaylee's doing super, and I would anticipate her continuing to do well."

Kellie Lindley added, "She's my hero. She's been through more than most people have probably ever been in their lives. She's beautiful, and I'm very, very proud of her."

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide. Visit UI Health Care online at

STORY SOURCE: Joint Office for Marketing and Communications, University of Iowa Health Care, 200 Hawkins Drive, Room E110 GH, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1009

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