The Texas youngster who received a section of her mother's liver continues to improve following last week's history-making operation and has shown no signs that she is rejecting the implant, one of her doctors said Tuesday.
Dr. Peter Whitington, director of the pediatric liver transplant program at the University of Chicago hospital where the operation was performed, said 21-month-old Alyssa Smith was listed in "serious but stable" condition after being implanted with the left lobe of a liver donated from her mother, 29-year-old Teresa Smith.
On Monday, she was moved from the hospital's intensive care unit to a regular patient room for the first time since the operation, doctors said.
The 13-hour operation on Nov. 27 marked the first time American doctors had ever attempted to transfer a portion of a liver from a living donor. The youngster underwent a second operation the following day when doctors found blood leaking from tissues.
Speaking at a press conference at the hospital, Whitington said Alyssa Smith was suffering from jaundice but that all other medical indicators appeared normal for a liver transplant recipient.
"Every indication is that she is going to continue to improve but she's still got a lot of hurdles to cross before she gets out of here," Whitington said.
The youngster suffers from biliary atresia, a disease where bile ducts are blocked, liver tissue scars and ultimately the liver stops functioning. It is a severe and usually fatal liver disease that affects as many as 500 children a year.
Meanwhile, doctors were set to release Alyssa's mother, Teresa Smith, from the hospital today, though they said Alyssa would probably not be discharged until sometime after Christmas. The mother had remained hospitalized while recuperating from complications suffered during the transplant when part of her spleen ruptured and had to be removed.
Teresa Smith, who teaches fourth grade at an elementary school in a San Antonio suburb, told reporters Tuesday that she has been able to visit and cuddle her daughter but has yet to pick her up because the mother is still in pain from the operation.
"She's a little tired but she seems to be doing pretty good," Smith said. " . . . I realize that a part of me is in her now, part of my liver is functioning as her liver," said her mother. " . . . The pain end of it is very minor from my standpoint compared to the possible advantages to Alyssa."
Meanwhile, doctors at the university hospital have indefinitely postponed a second living donor transplant that was scheduled for today on 14-month-old Sarina Jones of Millington, Tenn. She was to have received a portion of her father's liver.
Whitington said Jones also suffers from biliary atresia, but is much sicker than the Smith girl. He said the operation was delayed because Jones has developed a rare, life threatening infection called meningococcal peritonitis.
Unless her condition improves, doctors said they would perform a less experimental whole liver transplant when an organ became available. Unlike the partial transplant, whole transplants can only be performed using an organ removed from a donor who has just died.