Local doctors reunite for Children's Hospital Los Angeles' 300th pediatric liver transplant

Two doctors who today make Glendale and La Cañada their homes were part of the Children's Hospital Los Angeles' 300th pediatric liver transplant that was performed late last year.

Glendale resident Dr. Daniel Thomas, medical director of the liver and intestinal transplant program, and surgeon Dr. Yuri Genyk — living in La Cañada by way of Ukraine — are the duo responsible for not only the 300th pediatric liver transplant at the children's hospital but also the first one performed at the institution back in 1998.

By chance, they again came together in November to help parents Dejon Daniels and Jessica Valdepeña, whose 7-month-old son, Donovan Daniels, was diagnosed with a life-threatening liver disease called biliary atresia.

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That same disease, which prevents ducts in the liver from removing bile, afflicted Lydia Hand nearly 20 years ago when Thomas and Genyk helped transplant part of her grandmother's liver into her and marked the first pediatric liver transplant at CHLA.

For infant Donovan Daniels, it was his father's liver that saved his life. For the 300th procedure, patient No. 1, Hand — now an 18-year-old college freshman — connected with Donovan and his parents as a way to show what life can be like after a transplant.

"Three-hundred is quite a significant number," Genyk said. "The number of the children that we've helped — I wouldn't say that we've saved lives, I'd rather say we've given their life back to them."

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FOR THE RECORD

1/9, 10:19 a.m.: A previous photo caption for this story misidentified the doctors' roles. Dr. Daniel Thomas was Lydia Hand's hepatologist and Dr. Yuri Genyk performed her surgery.

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In October, Donovan's parents came to CHLA, where they were told by doctors that their son would need a new liver. On Nov. 18, Genyk performed Dejon's surgery at Keck Medicine of USC and, only hours later, his son Donovan's transplant at the children's hospital.

Hand met with the family in Donovan's hospital on Dec. 1.

CHLA doctors have since that date performed four pediatric liver transplants, one as recently as Friday.

"I think that because of our experience that [these types of procedures] are done more routinely," Thomas said. "We just have so much more experience that we are able to test things early and modify and know what to expect ... as the number and the years go on."

Donovan's immediate future will include frequent follow-up visits for the next three months while he undergoes the most stringent phase of immunosuppressant drugs. These drugs normally aid the patient's immune system so that their body is less likely to reject a transplanted organ.

Donovan Daniels and his mother came in this week for a visit and let Thomas know that Dejon Daniels is doing well and resting at home.

"The success of the liver transplantation really depends on so many things to make it successful" Genyk said. "The liver transplant program affects the quality and execution of the institution that makes the success of liver transplants possible."

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Jeff Landa, jeff.landa@latimes.com

Twitter: @JeffLanda

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