Okotoks toddler back home after surviving rare multiple-organ transplant
A southern Alberta family is thankful their 18-month-old daughter is back at home after surviving a rare multiple organ transplant procedure.
Tanis and Cody Mitchell were told last fall that their daughter, Lukah, had only 24 hours to live.
“They were honest with us about her chance of survival and the complexity of the surgery,” said Tanis on Saturday from the family’s home in Okotoks.
“Even her bowels had perforated two weeks after being (at the Stollery Children’s Hospital) in Edmonton. They told us that there would likely be an infection from that, and it would make the surgery unlikely and complicated but they were still willing to do it.”
Lukah had a benign tumour removed when she was just over a year old, but complications from the surgery resulted in her needing a multi-visceral transplant, which included a new liver, intestines, arteries and parts of her stomach and colon. The life-saving organ donation came just before Christmas. Both the donation and the surgery are rare.
Against the odds, Lukah survived the surgery on Dec. 16, despite struggling with decaying organs for nearly two months while waiting for a donor.
“We went a couple of weeks after and saw her organs and how dead and necrotic they were. It was hard to believe because she was doing so well, considering. To see them completely dead and mangled, it was pretty crazy,” Tanis said.
“She had great success with the surgery, and the doctors were constantly amazed and called it a miracle that she completely pulled through, and no one thought that she would. They couldn’t really explain it.”
Tanis has been living at the Ronald McDonald House in Edmonton since October with her husband, working part-time to help care for Lukah’s big sister, Berlynn. They are grateful for the support of the Okotoks community that has helped them through this.
“I think there is huge power in prayer and positivity and community. Just holding on for hope and realizing that we can’t explain everything,” Tanis said. “We said from the very beginning that we were going to trust (Lukah). If she needed to go, we would trust that.”
She added: “If she was going to get this life-saving surgery, we would just take it day by day and trusted that she would tell us what route to go. And she totally did.”
Lukah still requires a tube to help her get the water and medication she needs to recover. She will be on an antibiotic for life because her spleen was removed during the surgery. The family’s days are filled with hospital visits and plenty of blood work, but they say every day back home is a gift.
“They say her future is bright. It’s going to be a rocky road for the first year and even up to five years, but they’ve had great success for this type of surgery, and there are kids that have had this surgery that have normal lives so we are optimistic about her future,” Tanis said.
“Seeing the community of Okotoks come together and support us and lift us up with many gifts and gift cards and meals and love, it’s been really amazing. It’s been a life-changing journey for sure.”
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