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Doctors: Sarina Jones Faces Difficult Recovery

December 10, 1989

CHICAGO (AP) _ Tiny Sarina Jones was recovering well Saturday after undergoing the nation’s second living-donor liver transplant, but the 15-month-old faces a tougher battle recuperating in the next few weeks, hospital officials said.

Sarina remained in critical but stable condition Saturday evening, the day after doctors at the University of Chicago Medical Center removed the left lobe of 20-year-old father Robert Jones’ liver and implanted it in the infant. Jones’ condition was upgraded from critical but stable to serious but stable.

Sarina’s response since the 7 1/2 -hour operation was completed just after 10:30 p.m. Friday ″has been literally outstanding,″ hospital spokeswoman Mary Fetsch said Saturday. She said Jones ″also came back out of surgery just remarkably well.″

Jones, a dry-wall installer from the Memphis, Tenn., area, could be moved from the intensive care unit by Sunday, Ms. Fetsch said.

Dr. Christoph Broelsch, the transplant surgeon who performed the operation, said the surgery was ″very difficult,″ in part because doctors had to remove signs of a bacterial infection from the child. They worried it could linger and infect the new organ.

Ms. Fetch said doctors will closely monitor Sarina during the next 24 to 48 hours for signs of infection or other complications.

″After that, the next hurdle she’ll have to overcome is within the next seven to 10 days when any signs of rejection of the new liver would begin to show up,″ Ms. Fetsch said.

If she overcomes those two hurdles, the spokeswoman said, ″the next step is to get her out of the hospital, and that could be anywhere from four to eight weeks from now.″

″And once we get her to that point we feel that the next hurdle she has to overcome is the one-year to three-year mark - where she doesn’t experience any rejection or complications,″ Ms. Fetsch said. ″And then we feel like she’ll be pretty much home free for the rest of her life.″

Dr. Peter Whitington, director of pediatric transplant services at the University of Chicago Medical Center, said doctors also want to see the youngster gain weight. He said earlier in the week that Sarina was ″every bit as malnourished as an Ethiopian refugee″ because of her condition and infection.

Sarina has suffered since birth from a usually fatal disorder called biliary atresia.

The congenital disorder also afflicted 21-month-old Alyssa Smith, who on Nov. 27 received part of her mother’s liver at U of C in the first living- donor liver transplant in the United States.

Alyssa, of Schertz, Texas, near San Antonio, was in serious but stable condition Saturday evening, with her liver function ″rapidly improving toward normal″ and no signs of her body rejecting the transplant, Ms. Fetsch said.

Her mother, Teresa Smith, a 29-year-old schoolteacher, was released from the hospital Thursday on the arm of her husband, John L. Smith. The couple planned to visit their daughter during her recovery, and were staying at a nearby Ronald McDonald House, a place for families of children hospitalized away from home.

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