Patient Stories

“Alive with a New, Old Liver”

by Columbia Surgery on February 11, 2014

New York Times Highlights Creative Liver Transplant Surgery in Children

In recognition of February being Organ Donor Awareness Month, we share an inspiring story from the New York Times.

When you think about organ donation, you may think about the prospect of donating organs after a loved one’s (or your own) untimely death. Or perhaps you may be familiar with living donor organ donation, in which a benevolent healthy donor gives a kidney or a portion of their liver to allow someone to undergo a lifesaving transplant.

Tomoaki Kato, MD

Tomoaki Kato, MD

The February 3, 2014 Well column in the New York Times highlighted yet another way in which organ donation can save lives. The column tells the story of Jonathan Nunez, an 8-year-old boy who underwent a very special type of liver transplantation by Tomoaki Kato, MD, Surgical Director of Liver and Abdominal Transplantation.

Jonathan’s transplant, called auxiliary partial orthotopic liver transplantation (APOLT), is a unique type of surgery in which part of his failing liver was left in place when he received his new liver. Because the liver has the capability to regenerate, his native liver had the chance to heal while the new healthy tissue handled his body’s essential functions.

The hope was that with this support, Jonathan’s original liver would heal. And in his case, as in virtually all the other children Dr. Kato has transplanted, it worked.

According to Dr. Kato, “When the failing liver recovers, the child can stop taking the powerful immunosuppressant drugs that are required after transplant surgery. The donated portion of liver will wither and die, leaving the child with a healthy liver and medication-free once again.”

APOLT, also called partial liver transplantation, is appropriate for some children with acute liver failure. It is not appropriate for chronic liver failure, and it does not work as well in adults. As a result, few surgeons in the country have extensive experience with it.

Dr. Kato, one of the highest regarded pediatric transplant surgeons in the U.S. and a pioneer of creative approaches to liver and intestinal transplantation, has performed APOLT in 13 children. Twelve of the 13 children’s native livers have recovered so far, allowing them to stop taking immunosuppressant medications and live normal lives.

See the full story in the New York Times here, and learn more about living donor liver transplantation here.

Videos of Dr. Kato explaining liver and intestinal transplantation are also available in the Center for Liver Disease and Transplantation’s Patient Guide.

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Transplant Patient Reunites with Care Team

by Columbia Surgery on January 30, 2014

Twenty years after receiving a heart and double-lung transplant at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, grateful patient Sean Kunzli and his family came to New York City for a celebratory reunion with his surgeon, Craig R. Smith, MD, and the team that performed this lifesaving surgery. Born with congenital heart disease, Mr. Kunzli underwent the risky and rare transplant in December 1993. Today, Mr. Kunzli is healthy and, according to Dr. Smith, one of the longest surviving recipients of a heart and double-lung transplant.


Sheila Ryan, Mr. Kunzli’s mother; John Siceloff and his wife, Birgit Jorgensen, NP, who was a transplant coordinator at NYP/Columbia in 1993 and is now at NYP/Weill Cornell; Deborah Songailo-Cottrill, Mr. Kunzli’s cousin; Dr. Craig R. Smith, Surgeon-in-Chief, NYP/Columbia; Sean Kunzli; Chelsea Kunzli, Mr. Kunzli’s daughter; Wendy Kunzli-Schaub, Mr. Kunzli’s sister; and Dr. Mark E. Ginsburg, Associate Director of Thoracic Surgery, NYP/Columbia

*Courtesy NY Press January 2014*


First Fully Laparoscopic Adult-to-Adult Liver Donation Saves Daughter’s Life; Dr. Samstein publishes in American Journal of Transplantation

January 17, 2014

TweetWestfield NJ, December 2013 – Together with her extended family, 14-year-old liver transplant recipient Elle Haley enjoyed an extra special celebration of the holidays and the marriage of her grandparents. The year before, she received a portion of her father’s liver in what would be a groundbreaking procedure: Benjamin Samstein, MD, Surgical Director of the […]

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Formerly Conjoined Twins Make Medical History at NYP – Again!

January 10, 2014

TweetOver 20 years ago, conjoined twins Carmen and Rosa Taveras were brought to Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital NewYork-Presbyterian to be separated in a groundbreaking surgery. The twins were separated by a team of 52 doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, technicians, and others in a 14-hour operation that involved rerouting and dividing the internal organs and reconstructing […]

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Thyroid Cancer: My Story

September 4, 2013

Tweet  By Erica Ervin In the fall of 2011, three months after my wedding, I began to experience some strange health issues including an irregular heartbeat and panic attacks. I was just 31 at the time, and I have always exercised regularly, eaten a well balanced diet, and have been very healthy. Since we had […]

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Kevin Rogers Golf Outing & Dinner to Support the ECMO Team

May 6, 2013

TweetLast May, Kevin Rogers, a previously healthy 25 year-old, developed a life-threatening pneumonia that progressed to the point where his lungs and other organs completely failed.  His pneumonia was so severe and his oxygen level so low that even a mechanical ventilator and other intensive treatments could not keep him alive – Kevin was dying.  […]

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Connected for Life

April 24, 2013

TweetIn the spirit of National Organ Donation Month, WABC-TV has partnered with NewYork-Presbyterian to spread the word about organ donation. While scarcity of organ donors is a critical problem nation-wide, especially low numbers of donors affect New York, which currently ranks 48 out of the 50 states in number of living organ donors. “It’s a […]

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IL-2 for Metastatic Melanoma

March 11, 2013

TweetThe following video highlights Stan Adler, a patient whose melanoma had spread to his liver, lungs, and lymph nodes – “more tumors than his doctors could count.” After doing his homework and researching his options, he chose IL-2 therapy at NYP/Columbia. Now in complete remission, Stan has his life back NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia’s Melanoma Center is the […]

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The Power of Hospitality: Claire’s Tea Room

March 7, 2013

TweetSome people seem to have a gift for turning the most unlikely of circumstances into something beautiful. Claire Pace is one such person, having created a haven of warmth and comfort in the unlikely environs of a hospital floor where shell-shocked parents anxiously pace the halls and wait for news from their children’s heart surgeons. […]

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Show Your Love: Feb. 14 is National Organ Donor Day

February 14, 2013

TweetEveryone knows today is Valentine’s Day; you may even be in a chocolate coma by now, or enjoying the delicious fragrance of flowers from your sweetheart.  But did you also know that it is National Organ Donor Day? National Organ Donor Day recognizes another kind of love: the truly selfless, altruistic act of giving the […]

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