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Ronnie Needs Fourth Transplant, Back On Waiting List

April 27, 1987

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Seven-year-old Ronnie DeSillers, weakened by three liver transplants and a host of complications, took a turn for the worse Sunday night as doctors searched for yet another liver for the boy.

Ronnie’s third transplanted liver, which he received only last Thursday, was barely functioning Sunday night and he is ″much worse than he was (Saturday),″ said Lynn McMahon, a spokeswoman at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Ronnie’s need for a fourth donor liver is urgent, said Ms. McMahon, who said doctors have been searching since Saturday for another liver to transplant in the Miami boy, whose plight caught the attention of President Reagan.

″His liver was functionally only minimally before, now it is functioning even less,″ McMahon said.

″If he doesn’t get one soon, it’s going to be very hard for him to fight this,″ said Maria DeSillers, Ronnie’s mother.

Ronnie remained in critical condition Sunday in the hospital’s intensive care unit.

″I know if they can find one, he’d make it,″ said Ms. DeSillers. ″The problem is finding one.″

About 80 children are waiting for liver transplants in Pittsburgh, according to Brian Broznick, director of the Pittsburgh Transplant Foundation. Another 70 to 80 youngsters are on waiting lists elsewhere in the country.

So far, Ronnie ″has been lucky,″ Broznick said.

Again and again during the weekend, Ms. DeSillers said she pleaded with her son, ″You can’t give up now, you’ve got to keep fighting this.″

″This boy is a fighter,″ hospital spokeswoman Sue Cardillo said. ″It’s just incredible what he’s been through and the way he keeps coming back.″

Ronnie gained national attention in early February when Reagan heard of his need for a liver transplant and sent him a letter. Later, after $4,000 collected by classmates to help pay for the costly operation was stolen, contributions poured in from around the country, including $1,000 from Reagan.

More than $420,000 has been raised since then, just above the estimated $400,000 cost of the three transplants, according to Ms. DeSillers.

Ronnie underwent his first transplant Feb. 24. But a viral infection damaged the organ, necessitating a second transplant April 3.

Ronnie never recovered sufficiently to leave the intensive care unit, and on Thursday, three hours after being placed on the waiting list, he received the liver of an unidentified child who died of complications from Down’s syndrome.

The boy had gone into the transplant with abdominal infection, a non- infectious pneumonia and an inflamed pancreas. Two days earlier, he had endured two operations to correct abdominal pain and internal bleeding.

Tests showed Friday that the liver was not functioning even though the arteries leading to the organ were clear.

Ms. DeSillers said doctors informed her Saturday morning that the situation was ″very bad″ and that a fourth transplant appeared likely.

Surgeons at Children’s Hospital have transplanted four livers into only one patient, an 11-year-old New York boy who is now back home. The youngest child to ever receive four liver transplants, a 10-month-old girl, was discharged last month from the University of Chicago’s Wyler Children’s Hospital.

Ronnie was the 15th patient at Children’s Hospital to receive three liver transplants.

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