While sitting in a college class five years ago, Savana Oberts felt a sharp pain in her abdomen, and within hours she was at the hospital having emergency surgery. The otherwise healthy 21-year-old discovered that she suffered from malrotation of the intestine: congenital condition in which the intestine is less affixed within the abdomen with the potential at any point to twist and pinch, cutting off blood supply. Her bowel had twisted and died, and it needed to be removed.
In the last five years she has eaten no food, being sustained solely by total parenteral nutrition (TPN), an intravenous drug formula intended to keep patients alive while awaiting intestinal transplant. The long-term TPN use then caused her liver to fail, making her a candidate for an intestine-liver transplant. Her wait for a transplant finally came to an end Aug. 8 at UW Medical Center when she received donor organs in the region’s first adult intestine transplant.
Savana has since began taking popsicles and water by mouth, decreasing the TPN in favor of more tube feeds and food by mouth. She now looks forward to being discharged from the hospital.
While the 16-hour procedure represents a new beginning for Savana, it reflects a milestone for the UW’s Intestinal Care and Transplant Clinic, which Dr. Jorge Reyes — who performed Savana’s surgery — formed four years ago to help those suffering from intestinal failure.
Intestinal transplants are much less common than other types, such as kidney, liver or heart transplants. Since 1988, there have been less than 2,800 intestinal transplants nationwide, compared to nearly 400,000 kidney transplants. The procedure also comes with added complexity, requiring a skilled, multidisciplinary team to manage anything that might go wrong.
Children often need intestinal transplants due to hereditary causes, but intestinal failure in adults is often due to acquired conditions, such as clotting of vessels or gunshot wounds. There have been seven intestinal transplants done at Seattle Children’s, all on children under the age of 10. Dr. Reyes performed each one.
Congratulations to UW Medical Center and Savana! Click here to read more about Savana’s story and the UW Intestinal Care and Transplant Clinic in The Seattle Times. (Tim Pfarr)