(NECN: Ally Donnelly, Boston) – Alannah Shevenell shuffles past the media outside Children's Hospital Boston. She's saving her energy for more important things like living.
“She's fought hard, ya know? They gave her something back. They gave her back her life,” said her grandmother, Debi Skolas.
The nine-year-old girl from Hollis, Maine is making history here in New England. Three months ago, doctors replaced six of her organs, desperate to save her from a rare and suffocating tumor.
“Very difficult operation, as difficult as you can get,” said Dr. Hueng Kim of Children’s Hospital Boston.
Doctors found the tumor when she was just four years old. As she grew, the tumor choked off her esophagus. She couldn't eat, and she was in incredible abdominal pain. Chemotherapy failed. Other surgeries were unsuccessful.
But Doctor Heung Bae Kim, head of the hospital's pediatric transplant center, refused to give up. In one of the most extensive transplant surgeries ever performed in the region, Dr. Kim and his team replaced Alannah's esophagus, liver, stomach, spleen, pancreas and small intestine.
“This was a last resort for her, she had no other options. This was the only way she was going to survive,” said Dr. Hueng Kim.
Allanah waited on the transplant list for more than a year. Pediatric donors are particularly hard to find.
“One of the challenges with children is getting a size match so you have to wait a long time to get the right organs for the patient. Especially in this type of case where you need six organs,” said Dr. Kim.
“Nobody ever thought we would wait that long and it was getting worse. We were starting to get scared we wouldn't get them,” said Allanah’s grandmother.
The more than 14-hour surgery was a stunning success. Alannah will need to take more than 20 medications for who knows how long and guard carefully against infection.
But, she goes home to her farm in Maine able to go to school, to run, to play and to be a kid again.
“She's happy, she's happy,” said her grandma. “We're going home.”