Mom Gives Segment of Liver to Newborn Daughter Suffering from Rare Disease

Living donation gives baby girl second chance at life

Monday, November 02, 2015

When Bea Weidner was two-months-old, doctors at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center diagnosed her with a rare life-threatening pediatric liver disease called biliary atresia.

"Biliary atresia is a developmental problem with the bile ducts,” said Kathleen Campbell, MD, medical director of liver transplantation at Cincinnati Children’s. “It happens in newborn children who are typically normal at birth but months later the bile ducts begin to scar and over weeks they completely block so bile is no longer able to flow from the liver.”

Bea needed a liver transplant and was placed on a waiting list. Her parents, Hillary and Jordan Weidner, pushed to get tested so one of them could become a living donor rather than waiting for a deceased donor.

“As a mom, the only thing you want to do your whole life is help your kids,” said Hillary Weidner. “I didn’t want to watch her get sicker while waiting on the transplant list for a deceased donor.” After six weeks of extensive testing, Hillary discovered she was a match.

“I met with Hillary several different times to make sure she understood the risks prior to the surgery,” said Greg Tiao, MD, director of the Division of General and Thoracic Surgery at Cincinnati Children’s. “When working with the liver, there’s a fair amount of blood supply to it so this is a decent size operation in terms of the anesthesia, recovery and the complications that can arise.”

In July, surgeons at Cincinnati Children’s removed a portion of Hillary’s liver and successfully transplanted the section into her daughter Bea. “The liver starts to work really quickly,” said Maria Alonso, MD, pediatric surgeon. “The liver we transplanted into Bea will grow with her for the rest of her life. For mom, her liver will regenerate back to a normal size.”

Since the revitalization of the living donation program, surgeons have successfully performed seven liver transplantations at Cincinnati Children’s.

“There’s still more data that needs to be collected on the benefits of living liver donation. We don’t want families to feel pressure to donate. We want them to be aware of the risks and the benefits,” said Dr. Tiao. “In Bea’s case, we transplanted 3 to 6 months earlier than if she waited for a deceased donor.”

About Cincinnati Children’s

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center ranks third in the nation among all Honor Roll hospitals in U.S. News & World Report’s 2015 Best Children’s Hospitals. It is also ranked in the top 10 for all 10 pediatric specialties. Cincinnati Children’s, a non-profit organization, is one of the top three recipients of pediatric research grants from the National Institutes of Health, and a research and teaching affiliate of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. The medical center is internationally recognized for improving child health and transforming delivery of care through fully integrated, globally recognized research, education and innovation. Additional information can be found at Connect on the Cincinnati Children’s blog, via Facebook and on Twitter.

Contact Information

Shannon Kettler