EAST HOLLYWOOD (CBSLA.com) — Children’s Hospital Los Angeles marked a milestone on Thursday after completing its 300th pediatric liver transplant.
The hospital celebrated its accomplishments by bringing its youngest and oldest liver transplant patients together.
Lydia Hand of Lancaster was six months old when she received a liver transplant at CHLA in 1998.
The 18-year-old was the first patient at the hospital to receive a live liver donation. Her grandmother was the donor.
“Because of this place and the doctors, I am alive,” Hand said.
Now nearly two decades later, seven-month-old Donovan Valdepena was the hospital’s 300th liver transplant patient.
“It’s unexplainable how gratifying and pleasing this is,” said pediatric gastroenterologist Dr. Dan Thomas.
Donovan and Lydia were born with biliary atresia, a life-threatening condition in infants in which the bile ducts inside or outside the liver do not have normal openings.
The meeting was an eye-opening experience for Lydia who is now a college student.
She has no memory of her time in the hospital. But “I’ve heard all of the stories from my parents. But to actually see it happening is a totally different thing. That was me, and here I am now. It’s incredible,” Lydia said.
It’s also incredible for Donovan’s parents to see how far Lydia has come.
“Pretty amazing how far she has come,” said Donovan’s mom, Jessica Valdepena. “I want to see him grow up, have a bright future like she is having.”
Lydia has not been hospitalized once since she was discharged 18 years ago.
A photo taken from that day showed Lydia in her mom’s arms, with her grandma by her side and her two doctors behind her.
On Thursday, the hospital staff recreated the photo with the same two doctors who did both transplants.
This time, Donovan was in his mom’s arms, with his donor, who was his dad, by his side – two milestones together for one memory.
The baby was discharged from the hospital Thursday with few restrictions.
He will have to take about a half a dozen medications, but doctors expect his liver to be good for life.