Doctors in the United Kingdom have performed the first successful transplant from a newborn infant in the country. The groundbreaking procedure required two surgeries that are being heralded as a major milestone for pediatric transplant care in the UK.
In a tragic, bitter-sweet story, doctors in the UK successfully completed the transplantation of kidney and liver cells from a six day old infant after she suffered severe, irreversible brain damage and sadly died. Her parents, however, chose to allow their daughter to be an organ donor in what has been called an act of “extraordinary generosity.”
The infant transplant means that two other babies will now have a fighting chance at life that otherwise would not have been possible. Two very sick infants may have a brighter future thanks to the compassionate decision of the kindhearted parents who allowed their daughters organs to be donated.
Speaking to BBC about the story, one of the surgeons involved with the infant transplant, Dr Gaurav Atreja, emphasized the healing benefits that organ donation can often have for families who experience a tragic loss.
“This turned out to be a positive thing for the family. They could see something positive out of a negative experience. We hope that neonatal units across the UK will actively start thinking about this noble cause.”
While there is a desperate need for organ donors among adults and older children, it is extremely difficult to have a positive outcome for infant transplants. This is because the size of the organ plays such a critical roll that it simply is not possible to use older organ donors to help terminally ill babies. In most cases, an infant’s tiny body makes it extremely difficult to find a donor.
Currently, in the UK alone, there are 15 infants in dire need of an organ transplant. In Great Britain, a child can not be declared brain dead under the age of two months, making it even more important for parents who are facing the tragic loss of their own child to consider the gift of organ donation. Their kindness and generosity may give another infant a chance to live, and the grieving parents may find a tiny bit of positive light in the face of their own personal tragedy.
Similar infant transplants have also been done in the United States, Germany, and Australia. Medical professionals and the advocates of organ donation hope that such cases will serve to inspire others to become organ donors as well.
[Image: Reuters/Mariana Bazo]