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Monday, December 8, 1997 Published at 19:53 GMT


New life for Baebhen
image: [ Baebhen Schüttke with mother Ita ]
Baebhen Schüttke with mother Ita

The parents of the world's youngest liver transplant patient have thanked the surgeons who saved her life with a new liver.

It has just been revealed that Baebhen Schüttke, from Dublin, was given the organ at King's College Hospital in London five months ago when she was five days old.

She is now expected to live a full, healthy life.

She was diagnosed as suffering from neonatal haemochromatosis, also known as bronzed diabetes, which has proved fatal within weeks of birth.

Doctors spotted the condition when Baebhen was two days old. She underwent a six-hour operation during which she was given an eighth of an 10-year-old's liver.

Her parents, Ita and Jurgen Schüttke whose two baby sons died from the same condition, researched the condition in medical textbooks and on the Internet before approaching specialists at King's College Hospital in London.

Jurgen said: "When a doctor tells you that there's no hope for this condition, as a parent, you don't want to accept that. So our first step was to take this ourselves and we try and find out as much as we can."

Surgeons who performed the pioneering operation say she was lucky to find a donor at five days of age - treatment is more effective for newborn children.

Mohamed Rela said: "The advantage of having the transplant so early is that the immune system is very immature and they accept these organs as their own. They require very little immune suppression."

Ita Schüttke says her baby is now completely recovered: "She's not in the least bit sickly. She's got a very lively temper and she's a very happy baby. We never had a single problem with her since we brought her home from the hospital"

"She loves attention. I think that's what she got from being in the hospital with all the nurses looking after her.

The surgical team praised their courage and tenacity, and both the doctors and the parents thanked the medical staff and the family of the anonymous donor.

Two teams of surgeons, doctors, nurses and transplant staff at King's, Europe's largest transplant centre, were needed during the operation.

Professor Giorgina Mieli-Vergani, consultant liver paediatrician at Kings College Hospital, said: "We are obviously delighted that Baebhen is doing so well and expect her to make a full recovery and live a happy and healthy life.

According to Professor Mieli-Vergani: "This condition is very rare and the medical advances made through research at King's into liver disease and transplantation have permitted this breakthrough in treatment."

Developments in the techique have allowed 13 children under three months to receive new livers.

But children younger than Baebhen have undergone other transplants. A baby just 90 minutes old in Miami received a new heart in November 1996.

Transplant surgeon Mr Mohamed Rela, who performed the delicate operation on Baebhen, said: "Our ability to perform this level of surgery on patients so small has been made possible by the development of reducing livers to one eighth of their size."

Haemochromatosis disease in adults is a genetic disorder, characterised by high levels of iron, and is quite common.
Ita Schuttke speaks about her baby's life-saving surgery (Dur: 21")
The BBC's health correspondent, Fergus Walsh, reports on the life-saving operation.

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  Internet Links

SPLIT - Study of Pediatric Liver Transplantation

World Children's Transplant Fund

Kings College Hospital NHS Trust

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