A teenager and toddler have developed an unbreakable bond after undergoing life-saving surgeries that left the pair sharing parts of the same liver.
Kendall Haverty, 17, and 11-month-old Ava Danhoff may not be related by blood, but the girls consider each other “liver sisters,” their families shared with SWNS.
“I feel like her and Kendall are going to be friends for life,” Ava’s mother, Michelle Danhoff, 28, said.
Both girls were on the transplant list and desperately in need of a life-saving new liver when a donor who was a mutual match passed away, the news agency reported.
Kendall and Ava underwent a combined 12 hours of surgery at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, where doctors gave 70 percent of the organ to the teen and 30 percent to the baby.
The procedures, which were performed in adjacent operating rooms, have left Kendall and Ava feeling like new.
“Before I was in a lot of pain and swelling and I never had the energy to do anything,” Kendall said.
Since she was 11, Kendall battled autoimmune hepatitis, a chronic liver disease that she initially controlled with medication.
Two years later, doctors discovered that the teen also had primary biliary cirrhosis, a condition where her bile ducts were slowly destroyed. The disease turned her skin and eyes yellow and caused severe joint pain, stomach discomfort and spleen swelling.
Ava was also in dire need of a transplant.
“Before the transplant, Ava was so weak and she couldn't even hold her head up,” her mother said. “They told us that if she didn’t have treatment she would die. My heart sank. It was a time crunch and I immediately panicked.”
On Aug. 3, the families of both girls were notified that a potential liver had become available.
“They said a little baby only needed part of the liver and it would be a perfect size for Kendall to have the rest,” Kendall’s mother, Kerrie, told SWNS.
The girls’ families said their daughters showed improvement almost immediately after their liver transplants.
“When Kendall woke up after the surgery it was absolutely amazing to me that I looked into her eyes and they were white again,” Kerrie said.
Kendall agreed, saying: “Now I'm pretty much back to normal and I'm feeling so positive about the future.”
The teen is now looking forward and hopes to study phlebotomy in college.
Like her older “liver sister,” Ava immediately saw a change in her condition following the much-needed surgery.
“Now she is crawling, walking and eating,” Michelle said. “It's amazing. You would never know she has been through what she has been through.”
The pair met three days after their surgeries and their families now talk regularly. They even coordinate the girls’ follow-up appointments so they can support each other.
"It’s made such a huge difference to both of us, and it's just crazy to think that someone’s liver is inside both of our bodies,” Kendall said.
Doctors at the hospital also noted how unique Kendall and Ava’s situation was.
“There are not enough organs to go around and many patients die while waiting,” said Dr. Saeed Mohammad, assistant professor of pediatrics. “So it is remarkable that we were able to split this liver and treat two people."
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