When doctors at Egleston Children’s Hospital in Atlanta prepared to go in and remove 13-year-old Rocky Face resident Hannah Brooks’ liver to replace it with a new one Saturday morning at 7:30, they expected the organ to be enlarged. It’s a typical result of the type of disease she has — glycogen storage disease.
But they were all blown away by what they found.
The liver was not only enlarged, it was five times the size of what it should have been. According to Brooks’ father, Jeff, doctors told him and his wife Tanya it was the largest liver they had ever removed from a child.
Seven hours later, during which time Jeff and Tanya “paced the floor and about wore out the carpet,” Hannah left the operating room for the intensive care unit — her transplant declared a success. Her parents went back to see her right away. Jeff said he wasn’t expecting to see his daughter lying there covered with tubes.
“There were like six lines of IVs, and she was on a ventilator,” he said. “I’ve never seen more tubes.”
They were there when Hannah started to come to, but they said she was really drowsy from the continuous pain medication drip and couldn’t talk because of the ventilator. However, about four hours later, she started trying to communicate — a frustrating exercise until someone finally rounded up a pad and pen.
“She was really curious about what the doctor had to say,” said Jeff. “And she was curious about how everything went. She was pretty alert.”
On Sunday at 10 a.m., the ventilator was removed, and nurses began giving her a little bit of liquids occasionally to see how her body tolerated them. So far, Jeff said Hannah is handling the liquids well and is hoping to move up to more solid foods within the next few days. She’s also down to using oral pain meds as needed.
Nothing is known about the donor, since all of that information is kept confidential. All that is known is he or she was a child, so that the liver would be the right size. Jeff said for his family, Hannah’s new liver is a great Father’s Day gift, but he can’t help thinking about a family somewhere out there that lost a child.
They are hoping Hannah can be moved out of ICU and into a room today, at which point doctors will work on getting her medication at the proper levels and also have Hannah start walking around for short intervals. The family expects at least a two-week stay in the hospital.
“We appreciate everybody’s prayers and well wishes,” said Jeff. “It was just like a big sigh of relief when the surgery was finally over.”